Irresponsible journalism at its worst

There is no such thing as a prank call. Purporting to be someone you aren’t is disingenuous at best, and more frequently, lying.

Disregarding the issue of how a couple of Aussie music programme presenters can possibly emulate the Queen (of England), their behaviour is just totally the pits.

‘G’Day mate, it’s Queen Liz ‘ere, how’s our Kyte going?’

My Aussie accent never was very good.

I mean who would even believe the Queen would ring up on a public line to enquire about the health of her daughter-in-law? (Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, admitted to hospital in the early days of her pregnancy).

Michael Christian and Mel Grieg seriously plumbed the depths with their asinine call.

And as for Rhys Holleran, chief exec of the company that owns the Sydney radio station, 2Day FM, he is an even larger species of low-life. Justifying prank calls, about a serious issue, that results in the death of an innocent person, is despicable.

“I think that prank calls as a craft in radio had been going on for decades. They are done worldwide and no-one could reasonably have foreseen what happened.”


The network later suspended all advertising on 2Day FM until Monday.
BBC correspondent Duncan Kennedy said the decision was meant as a sign of respect, although with several advertisers, including Australia’s largest supermarket chain, already pulling their adverts, it was more like damage limitation and to avoid further bad publicity.

Well yes. Bottom line, money.

But a woman in her forties, with two children, appears to have committed suicide because of a ‘prank call’. Jacintha Saldanha was found dead on Friday, police have said there were no suspicious circumstances.

She had answered the irresponsible call at 5.30am and put it through to a colleague who talked about the health of the Duchess of Cambridge to the radio presenters.

It’s not just the greedy media barons who are at fault. It is the public who are so interested in the private life of the royals. Me? I don’t care two hoots what they get up to, so long as it doesn’t cost the taxpayer excessively.

I struggle to work out which generation we are even on. One minute Edward and Charles are getting married, the next, Charles and Diana’s son is on the point of being a father. All beyond me.

But back to irresponsible journalism.

In the UK, a recent government inquiry (The Leveson Inquiry) into bad practice in the media produced a report last month, calling for stringent regulation. UK Prime Minister David Cameron rejected the findings. The only blog posts I have read agreed with the findings.

I don’t disagree there is some appalling, intrusive and invasive journalism around. It is due 1) to corporate greed and 2) to idiots who read such garbage and thereby create demand for drivel.

But regulating the press won’t change the crap. It will merely serve to hinder the good and investigative journalism that still occasionally goes on.

Did prohibition stop Americans drinking alcohol?

Do laws against streetwalking stop prostitution?

Do speed limits stop people driving too fast?

etc etc etc

Regulating the press is going down a very Stalinist road. Remember that, those of you who agree with it.

My condolences to the family of Jacintha Saldanha, and my unreserved criticism to the bosses of 2Day FM, and specifically Holleran, Christian and Grieg.

Quotes from the BBC website

About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
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17 Responses to Irresponsible journalism at its worst

  1. Vicky says:

    I totally agree with you, if there wasn’t such an insatiable hunger from the general public to know every last detail about folk in the limelight, it just wouldn’t make the headlines.
    I’m sure the duchess would have been far happier if this blip in her pregnancy hadn’t been broadcast to the world (especially as it was within twelve weeks). Which in turn wouldn’t have prompted the phone call and in all probability two teenage children would still have their mother.


    • Cheers V. I find it hypocritical that people slag journalists off and then buy the papers or watch the TV programmes that promote this boring soap opera stuff, whether royals, hollywood celebs or ghastly big brother people. All the same to me.

      Whether you agree with royalty or not, they are still people and deserve some privacy, although maybe some would say not.

      However, while I am pretty biased regarding freedom of the press, that ‘phone call wasn’t journalism at all. It was despicable and nasty. I do hope the three mentioned above will be funding the future of the two children left without a mother. (yes, I know, in my dreams).


  2. I agree with you but sadly they will get away with it just like the obnoxious Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand.


    • I’m not up on British TV these days, thankfully.

      Never even heard of Russell Brand. Had to look him up. Hey, he is a good guy, he has been vegetarian for ages, and is now vegan. Gets my vote. And he said something about George Bush and cowboys. The guy can’t be totally lacking! And he does TM.

      Either way, though, I’m so not into celebrity presenters/journalists/whatevers. Whatever happened to the BBC newscasters wearing dinner jackets above their jeans, or even nothing? ๐Ÿ˜€


      • Dietary preferences are an interesting way of judging people. Does being a vegetarian automatically make you ok and compensate for other character flaws? Brand and Ross made an obscene call on air to Andrew Sachs about his daughter and although ‘told off’ by the BBC and temporarily suspended ultimately got away with it! No one died but a very similar story nontheless.


        • No of course it doesn’t and I’m sure you knew I was being somewhat flippant. And then, how vegetarian is vegetarian? What about leather use etc? Don’t even mention Hitler (who was not vegetarian). My comment about anyone being vegetarian is that they have some compassion for animals so hopefully for people too.

          But given your story about the obscene call, possibly not ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

          I still maintain though, that if people didn’t read/watch/listen to such shameful (or maybe shameless) tosh, perhaps our media might have slightly higher standards. Perhaps.


  3. Kyanite Blue says:

    This was an awful tragic result of the crazy media desire / frenzy for insider news on the royals.
    The jounalists concerned should hang their heads with shame.
    But as one who knows a little about suicide, the desire to take ones life, the nurse in question was yes pushed to the the brink by the publicity but those who loved her should look to them selves too as it wasn’t just this unfortunate incident that pushed her over the edge.


    • What is there to say though? Woman in early stage of pregnancy goes in to be checked for some condition, the name of which I and most other people have forgotten. Impersonating the Queen (and Prince Philip) is a bit OTT.

      As for the suicide, I did think putting a call through to a colleague seemed a bizarre reason, so you may well have something there.


  4. I heard my favorite disk jockey call Natalie Wood in the hospital after she had given birth (to congratulate her?), and he got away with it until a nurse informed him that she was asleep and not taking calls. I don’t remember if there were lies involved, but his prank turned my stomach and made me wonder what the hell he’d been thinking. I was very young at the time, but I still saw that he was being a jerk.

    In the US, I believe, there’s a law that says you have to take a victim the way you find them — meaning that if the poor woman who comitted suicide had a history of depression, and her heirs could prove it, they’d be able to sue the Aussie disk jockeys and their employers for damages in contributing to her death. I hope Britain has such a law. It feels sad to think about money in such a situation, but it would send a message to these stupid broadcasters who think that anything goes.

    I know it sounds terrible, but to a very sensitive person, the kind of public embarrassment that woman suffered could feel unbearable. I’m shaking a bit now as I write this, just from understanding how she must have felt.


    • I’ve no idea if there is a law like that in the UK, probably not! As Blue says above, there may have been a history of depression (doesn’t everyone get depression at some point in their life, it just isn’t diagnosed as such), or maybe stress at work?

      What’s interesting about the incident however, was that all this nurse did was put the call through. She wasn’t actually the one who gave out the information about the Duchess of Cambridge. Fortunately the other one hasn’t committed suicide. I’ve not followed the story, but I hope she doesn’t get reprimanded, she must feel stupid enough as it is. To me it highlights the need for simple and clear guidelines about giving information out on the telephone – and to who. And if you have famous people in your hospital (or wherever) to be doubly careful – and pass the call onto someone with senior responsibility.

      Reminds me of the occasion when my partner was travelling back to Spain, and I’d not heard from him for a couple of days, he’d previously been in contact a few times a day. I rang the ferry company to find out if he had embarked and they wouldn’t tell me. ‘Hello, I’m his wife, I even booked the ticket so I can give you my card details.’ Nope. They wouldn’t budge. i ended up reporting him as a missing person to the police instead.


  5. EllaDee says:

    I missed this news to start with but now it’s unmissable… and then I saw your post, which sums it up beautifully… I’m still shaking my head at the events. The media appalls me. I read just enough to keep up with bare current affairs but put no weight in opinions and much of the reporting I see. After Princess Diana died I stopped buying women’s magazines.
    This prank, as they all are, was incredibly stupid… I’m not sure how these 2 came to be radio hosts, and I would never in a million years listen to 2Day FM… I think both 2Day FM & the hospital head honchos need to have a re-think about their business practices, although I’m sure neither will ever have such a situation occur again but for different reasons.
    The death of Jacintha Saldanha is tragic – and I believe as Kyanite Blue commented many elements play a part in a suicide.
    One thing is glaring to me, had the staff been briefed properly on the sensitive and confidential nature of this patient in particular, it would all have been a non event.
    In my job, we receive regular updates about firm business, information about confidential matters and how to deal with enquiries and who to direct them to that are properly qualified.
    It doesn’t make me any less sad though, for all those involved.


    • Thanks ED. I don’t even keep up with current affairs. I scan Gib govt press releases from time to time, and read the local papers once a week or fortnight at the library or read the front page at the supermarket (like everyone else) when I rarely go.

      I’m not into royalty. I’m not anti-it and I don’t call for their heads, but I’m just not interested. It’s not an age thing, because apart from dressing up as the queen when I was around five, I’ve never followed their every move with bated breath. I did make sure that I was out of the country for the C&D wedding – I went to France which I thought would be pretty anti-British royalty but of course it got loads of TV coverage there too! At the time I didn’t know Partner but he had escaped to Darwin for it ๐Ÿ˜€

      Those two look like Blue Peter presenters. I don’t know whether they are as young as they look, but talk about clones. I really wish fat old ugly people could get jobs to try and jolt a bit of reality into life and media.

      One thing always used to rack me off at work (NHS particularly) and that is the lack of attention to detail regarding communications. Everyone thinks it is easy, that they can do it, know all about it – but they don’t realise how wide-ranging it is and what the implications can be of not having clear precise systems in place.

      When I was a reporter we would do condition checks on people in hospital. I would ring up, ‘Hello, it’s roughseas from clouds blog, I’d like to ask about the condition of patient X today please.’ Pretty easy, unsensational, but straightforward. They were either stable, critical or discharged. ‘Oh, well can you add any more?’ No.

      We all have a job to do. And I don’t think nursing staff – unless you are talking ward sister level, should be speaking to the media about any patients, let alone prominent ones. They aren’t paid to deal with crap calls and they shouldn’t have to. My staff tried to deal with the calls they could, and when people started giving them a hard time, they knew they could always pass them onto me. I got paid to take flack, they didn’t. I also got the boss passing calls down too, but that’s a different story ๐Ÿ˜€

      I would have routed any call like the one from the DJs straight to the press office, regardless of the time of day (I took calls 24 hours a day – no on-call allowance because I was salaried senior management), the hospital chief executive, or in their absence, a director (depending on the abilities of the director). It’s irrelevant that they didn’t say they were media, it’s a) who they claimed they were and b) the patient in question. I could write the protocol for them now in half an hour flat!


  6. bluonthemove says:

    In the end its all about money. What ever comes out of Leveson I hope that where Newspapers clearly breach what ever code is put in place, in the way that this would do in the UK, then they are fined something like a weeks gross takings, so that the largest papers with the widest readership get fines in the millions of pounds. That would make them take notice without stopping them publishing items like the MPs expenses.


    • Of course, it is the money. But it begs the question of how far people go for money?

      I think one of the issues about press regulation, about which I am naturally biased, is that in most, if not all, cases there are laws in place to prosecute a lot of the detestable intrusion that occurs. But – looking at either law or ‘regulation’ – how do you penalise an Aus media station from the UK?

      The difference between the Press Complaints Commission and regulation/laws is the punitive aspect with the second. And if you are going to punish someone, then they should have the opportunity to provide a defence.

      With regards to any fines – which is the most practical way of making something hurt, I would be also making it against specific individuals eg managing editor, directors etc, somewhat like making individuals at the top of the tree responsible for health and safety deaths. I wouldn’t want to see a downturn in profits resulting in the loss of jobs for totally innocent employees, which is one spin-off that could easily occur.


  7. cobbies69 says:

    Some one mentioned Brand and Ross to which I agree obnoxious and so up their own proverbial ass, but with this event it also shows once again the poor communication between security and what is expected. Surely the staff would be told that no royal would ring them, especially at the time it was recorded, so to be aware of scam calls. Would people be talking about it so much if the nurse had not killed herself,allegedly, but this also shows this nurse possible had issues already, as again allegedly, she was assured that no blame etc was being appointed. The hospital and Royals was passing no blame to it’s staff.


    • I’m glad I don’t know about Brand and Ross! Such a sheltered life I lead.

      Totally agree about the communications aspect. Yes, staff should be told no royal would ring them (actually at that time it could be possible, we get up any time after 5.30 am and I thought the queen was an early bird too), and that should be extended to other prominent people, eg MPs, business people etc etc

      The point is though, that if they did get such calls, to pass it elsewhere, and regarding VIPs (Very Important Patients in this case), they should also refer the calls to a senior manager. It’s not rocket science. It’s not taking responsibility away from nursing staff, it’s basically saying they aren’t trained to deal with these sort of issues.

      No, I’m sure it would have been a five minute wonder story had she not killed herself. But she did, and therefore it exposes even moreso the poor communications policies in place. I think the point that she may have been under stress for other reasons is perfectly valid, but I’m not speculating on that. The two main points I wanted to make were that this is not journalism at all. It is money-making scandal, and in this case at someone else’s expense. The second point is that communication strategies are not just about sending out a few press releases and having a press officer in place, they need to be implemented throughout the organisation.


I appreciate any comments you leave, so long as they are relatively polite. And thanks for reading.

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