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Nurse death sparks outrage

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Postby chiselray » Sun Dec 09, 2012 3:22 am


The apparent suicide of Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who inadvertently put through a prank call to the hospital ward where the Duchess of Cambridge was staying, has provoked outrage, sadness and demands for retribution in all corners of the media.

The tragedy has revived memories of previous practical jokes that have gone horribly wrong, but also stirred an already febrile debate on ethical boundaries, whether in the mainstream or social media, and what, if any, legal recourse should be available to people humiliated or taunted in public.

Saldanha, a 46-year-old mother of two, was found dead Friday -- three days after Australian DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian of 2DayFM placed a call to the King Edward VII hospital in the UK, where the duchess was being treated for morning sickness. They pretended to be Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles.

A statement on the radio station's website said: "The hosts have decided that they will not return to their radio show until further notice out of respect for what can only be described as a tragedy."

Rhys Holleran, CEO of the company that owns the radio station, said Saturday the DJs were "deeply shattered" by what occurred. "This is a tragic event that could not have been reasonably foreseen and we are deeply saddened by it," he said of Saldanha's death.

Many media organizations played the audio tape of the prank call in part or its entirety.

Hospital prank victim found dead CNN broadcast part of it -- but not the segment where a nurse in the ward briefly discussed details of the duchess's condition.

Of the three major broadcasters in the United Kingdom, neither Sky News nor the BBC played the call. ITN played a clip that included the voice of Saldanha (but did not identify her) on several newscasts. It didn't really matter whether the major broadcasters aired the tape; the whole conversation was widely available online via YouTube.

Nurse found dead after taking prank call

Before Saldanha's apparent suicide, the chief executive of the hospital, John Lofthouse, had already condemned the prank, saying, "I think this whole thing is pretty deplorable, our nurses are caring, professional people trained to look after patients, not to cope with journalistic trickery of this sort."

And trickery seems to go the heart of the issue.

2DayFM has a history of public humiliation. In 2009, a 14-year-old girl was tricked into acknowledging that she had been raped at the age of 12 -- only to be asked by a DJ: "Is that the only experience you've had?"

That led the Australian Communications and Media Authority to censure the station -- saying the broadcast did not meet standards of decency. The station said it had provided the teenager with counseling and vowed "to prevent anything similar from happening again."

But 2DayFM has been the subject of several inquiries since; and this year was told it "must not broadcast material that demeans or is likely to demean women or girls" as a condition of keeping its license.

That followed a broadcast in which a female journalist was called a derogatory term and told "to watch your mouth or I'll hunt you down" by DJ Kyle Sandilands. The incident provoked a campaign to persuade advertisers to boycott the show, but 2DayFM was not fined and Sandilands kept his job. He even interviewed Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in July.

Social media entwined in radio prank

After its latest prank, 2DayFM's website boasted about the "Biggest Royal Prank Ever," but in the UK, Daily Telegraph columnist Bryony Gordon said it was "not so funny to hear two grown adults call up a hospital ward full of sick people to try to scam information about one of them."

"What Christian and Greig did was borderline illegal," she added.

On social media, the tragedy made an impact in a way that many stories don't.

"Desensitisation created by 24/7 news means few news items actually cause shock; the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha is one such item," tweeted Ricky Seal.

It also prompted visceral hostility toward the radio presenters. 'I hope they're proud of themselves'.... "Do the moronic callers still find themselves humorous?".... "Humanity, we have reached another low" were among the thousands of furious tweets.

Both DJs have deleted their Twitter accounts. As the UK tabloid the Daily Mirror put it on its front-page Saturday, 'Pranksters Face World Fury.'

Around the world, reaction in the op-ed columns echoed the fury.

In Canada, Christina Blizzard wrote: "So a young woman who cared enough to go into nursing, was courteous enough to pick up a phone because a receptionist wasn't at her desk, was trusting enough to be helpful -- is dead. Two children don't have a mother.

"But at least a radio station kept their audience entertained."

However, some -- a minority to be sure -- said it was too easy to mobilize the virtual lynch mob. One Canadian tweeted: "The two deejays are not responsible for the actions of an unbalanced woman."

Prank phone calls and other practical jokes have long been a form of entertainment on radio and television. Most of the time they are harmless enough: both sides get the joke. The TV series "Candid Camera" ran for years because the great majority of the people tricked by the show were prepared to sign away their dignity for a few minutes.

But pranks can go wrong.

Back in 2008, the BBC apologized to actor Andrew Sachs after two radio presenters -- Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross -- left a series of messages on his phone while on-air, including offensive references to his granddaughter. The second message apologized for the first -- but also suggested Sachs might kill himself because of the content of the previous message.

The two presenters were later suspended by the BBC, and a senior executive resigned. The corporation was also fined some $225,000 by the UK media regulator and its governing trust described the episode as a "deplorable intrusion with no editorial justification."

Brand moved on -- to a career in Hollywood. Veteran publicist Max Clifford told the Daily Telegraph soon after the incident that Brand's career would not be hurt.

"He's known to be controversial and, if anything, it will make him more popular amongst his fans, who will have thought this was hilarious," Clifford told the newspaper.

As Oscar Wilde once said, "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about."

Sachs was at least familiar with the public spotlight as a well-known actor and narrator. Jacintha Saldanha was not. Nor was Gretchen Molannen.

On November 30, the Tampa Bay Times published a story about Gretchen Molannen, a 39-year old woman who had a rare sexual disorder known as 'persistent genital arousal.'

The Times worked with Molannen and read her the entire story before it was published. She'd written to the newspaper thanking it for showing an interest, adding: "I just hope this will educate people that this is serious and really exists, and that other women who are suffering in silence will now have the courage to talk to a doctor about it."

The day after the story was published, Molannen killed herself. Even sympathetic coverage and subsequent offers of help could not save her.

It's unclear whether the publicity about her condition was too much to bear; she had previously attempted to take her own life.

"It's important to understand that suicide is complex," says Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of the Samaritans, a UK group that counsels people thinking of suicide.

"Although a catalyst may appear to be obvious, suicide is never the result of a single factor or event and is likely to have several interrelated causes," Johnstone said on the group's website soon after news emerged of Saldanha's death.

If adults are vulnerable to what they perceive as public humiliation, teenagers are doubly so. Tyler Clementi was an 18-year old student at Rutgers University who in 2010 was secretly filmed by his roommate having a sexual encounter with another man. A short while later he jumped to his death from a New York bridge.

Clementi was not only humiliated but his humiliation was amplified by the fact that his roommate, Dharun Ravi, shared the footage with others and tweeted about it. He was later convicted of bias intimidation and invasion of privacy and sentenced to 30 days in jail.

The case seemed to bring together many of the factors that put the vulnerable even more at risk: technology that can record and distribute private acts in a matter of minutes; the failure -- especially among many younger users of social media -- to understand the potential consequences of their postings; and the uncertain state of the law in many places.

It also highlighted an epidemic of teenage suicides in the United States -- one that has coincided with the immersion of that age group in social media and texting for hours at a stretch. Schoolyard bullying ends when recess does; cyber-bullying is 24/7 and reaches into the bedroom, the mall and the classroom.

When 15-year old Phoebe Prince killed herself in Massachusetts two years ago, another student at her school told the media: "Someone told her to go hang herself, and I don't really know who that was, but she was getting bullied by some people, because there were people talking about her and I guess she didn't like being hated."

At first glance, many of these cases bear little resemblance to that of Jacintha Saldanha. But there are common threads.

In the 21st century, personal humiliation can quickly go viral thanks to the reach and appetite of both social and mainstream media. Within hours, the minor transgressions and innocent mistakes, the private behavior and anxieties of ordinary people can reach, or seem to reach, the ends of the earth. For a few, that exposure is quickly overwhelming.
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Postby rath » Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:26 pm


It's just outrages how the U.S & British press are treating these poor Australian DJ's.

The British & American press need to take a good long look at themselves.
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Postby chiselray » Fri Dec 14, 2012 2:18 am

There has been a lot of childish behaviour going down since this happened ,i mean since it happened ,the event itself was a laugh .
I feel for the family of the nurse ,this event was mearly a trigger ,it could have been she may have commited suicide next week ,or the month later for getting a parking fine ,who knows..Her behaviour was fragile ,it seems that the world should shut the hell up and leave the family alone without bringing more uneccesary media to the situation.
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Postby rath » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:48 pm

Yhe, the British & U.S press have tried to claim that the Australian radio stations actions killed this nurse & that Australia should be held responsible.

Yet now we find out that the nurse left a suicide note when she hung herself, & in the note she states that she has killed herself because of the actions of the British press who harassed her. & because she had a long history of harassment, miss treatment & racism at the hospital where she worked.
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Postby rath » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:58 pm

The London hospital that employed the nurse at the centre of a prank call scandal has defended its treatment of her in the days before she was found dead.

Jacintha Saldanha was found dead last week, days after she answered the prank call. (Credit: ABC)

The London hospital that employed the nurse at the centre of a prank call scandal has defended its treatment of her in the days before she was found dead.

The body of 46-year-old Jacintha Saldanha was found last week, days after taking a call at King Edward VII's Hospital from two Sydney 2Day FM radio presenters posing as Queen Elizabeth II and William's father Prince Charles.

She transferred the two presenters' phone call to the ward of the Duchess of Cambridge.

A British newspaper report has claimed one of the notes found after Ms Saldanha's death contains criticism of staff at the hospital.

But the hospital has released a statement saying it offered her its support and had made it clear there would be no disciplinary action of any kind against Ms Saldanha.

"There have been reports today about the alleged contents of one of the notes found in Jacintha's room," the hospital statement said.

"No-one at the hospital has seen these notes, and so we cannot comment on the reports or their accuracy. However, we would reiterate that Jacintha was an outstanding nurse, doing her duty caring for sick patients.

"Following the hoax call, hospital management offered her their support and told her that they considered her the victim of a cruel hoax."

The hospital's statement also insists that contrary to many reports, it has been in regular contact with Ms Saldhanha's family since her death.

The hospital held a memorial service for her, and two other services will be held over the weekend at her home town in Bristol and at Westminster cathedral.

A British coroner has opened an inquest into the nurse's death.

Yesterday, Sydney police revealed death threats had been made against the two 2Day FM radio hosts, Mel Greig and Michael Christian.
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Postby greeney2 » Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:30 am

She killed herself the next day, not days afterwards.
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Postby chiselray » Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:53 am

It was 3 days later after the prank call was aired ..she was then found dead .

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Postby chiselray » Sat Dec 15, 2012 12:57 am

rath wrote:Yhe, the British & U.S press have tried to claim that the Australian radio stations actions killed this nurse & that Australia should be held responsible.

Yet now we find out that the nurse left a suicide note when she hung herself, & in the note she states that she has killed herself because of the actions of the British press who harassed her. & because she had a long history of harassment, miss treatment & racism at the hospital where she worked.

The truth is coming out ,an embarraessed administation has raised it's hand somewhat to the nurse which has overburdened her ,she must have felt so small..
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Postby rath » Sat Dec 15, 2012 1:28 am

Like Australian politicians, & law makers said, over the British attacks on the Australian DJ's.

Who the hell do the British press think they are.

The British press are in no position to make demands on further regulation of the Australian press. Giving the absolutely sickening actions of the British press over the years.

actions, like bribing police & politicians.

hacking peoples phones, such as actors & business people, & rape victims & a dead girls phone & the phone of her family.

See my post on the Leveson inquiry into the British press.

Timeline of UK phone hacking scandal ... index.html

British paper The Sun accused of bribing U.S. troops in Iraq ... cusations/

Murdered Milly's phone 'got hacked' ... acked.html
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Postby rath » Sat Dec 15, 2012 1:47 am

British media must share prank blame

2Day FM never would have got permission to broadcast the prank call under UK rules. AFP

Martin Campbell
From: Herald Sun
December 14, 2012

IT seems quite clear to all that if the 2Day FM radio prank did not breach broadcasting laws in Australia, it should have done. It's actually as simple as that.

It was certainly a breach of broadcast laws of the regulator Ofcom here in the UK, simply because for all prank calls these days, you need the permission of those people involved if there is no public interest defence - and there is no public defence on this one.

So I would have thought that it should be in breach of laws. Those responsible didn't look at what they were doing.

I know it sounds very spoilsport, but I helped write the code in the UK that demanded written permission be required from people if a segment is to result in some distress or public ridicule.

This unfortunate incident clearly falls into that bracket.

Episodes such as this need to be prevented and if the Australian laws don't prevent them, they need to be changed fairly quickly. Even in this multimedia age, the radio remains a very forceful medium because people are very loyal to radio and they believe in radio. Radio is still very strong.

So if you allow people to use the microphone as a weapon - in other words, I have the microphone, I am going to do what I want, I might give you a right of reply, I might let you say something, I might just make a fool of you - if you start using the microphone as a weapon, then radio as a medium is finished, because that is not what its job should be. People need to be able to trust radio. It doesn't mean you can't have fun, but the fact of this particular matter is that 2Day FM never would have got permission to broadcast the prank call.

I don't care what anyone says, they would not have been given permission to broadcast it and therefore it should not have been broadcast. It doesn't matter how funny they thought it would be - if they didn't have permission, it shouldn't have been broadcast.

But I'm also quite convinced that without the overhyping that occurred, there wouldn't have been such a a problem.

We had Prince Charles wandering around joking about the prank before news of nurse Jacintha Saldanha's death broke because that was the only way the royal family could have dealt with it: "It's happened then it's gone, just leave it. It's a couple of idiots having a laugh."

That was clearly Prince Charles's view.

But what happened in Britain was that the prank was played over and over again and a lot of people in the UK media are now being pious, having a go at 2Day FM.

Yet the story was on their websites for days. And they knew quite clearly there was no permission to broadcast, but they were happy to put it on the web - and that is, I think, a very dangerous area that the mainstream media in the UK is entering into.

In effect they are pushing people to the internet to see things that they wouldn't be able to print or broadcast themselves, without taking responsibility for it. That is a real problem.

Everyone knows what the story was, but each British newspaper wanted to make it a bigger story and a nastier story, and so a lot of the tabloids here were trying to make out that personal and confidential information about the Duchess of Cambridge was spilling out everywhere as a result of this prank - and clearly it wasn't. The hospital said it wasn't.

That would make the people involved think: "What? Not only have I been made a fool of, I thought I'd breached the security of the royal family." And that seems to be not true as far as the hospital is concerned.

So when media outlets play fast and loose with the facts like this and just push it through the internet without taking responsibility for the content, it's clear that there is something that needs to be looked at.

And of course the Leveson Inquiry (into the ethics and culture of newspapers) hardly touched on the internet at all and I think it shows political naivety in the UK about newspapers, their role these days and the power they have.

A paper like the Daily Mirror, for example, doesn't make or break a government. It might sway some views but it's not the power it was in the 1960s and '70s. But it has a different role. It's not just about news, it's about comment, about giving people what they want to see and hear.

So in may ways, I think this prank call encapsulates an awful lot of what's happening to the media.

Martin Campbell is the former chief adviser to British Ofcom, the broadcast regulator. He was talking to Charles Miranda in London
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