The media has fetishes – we all know it – and the British royal family is one of them.
So anything connected with said family is apparently fair game, even when it involves breaking our own rules about privacy and reporting tragedy. The story of the nurse who died after being a victim of the prank call from two Australian DJs is now almost a week old, but the media won’t let it die. . .or more accurately, won’t let the nurse rest in peace.
Yes, there is an element of newsworthy questions to ask: did her employer – the private hospital that had been treating the Duchess of Cambridge for severe morning sickness – put pressure on her for
transferring the DJs’ call; or were media outlets hounding her? I’ve seen no evidence of either as yet.
But the level of detail and intrusion, particularly when the media generally ignores suicide stories and especially when it has rules about how to treat suicide stories, has gone too far.
It went too far when the BBC and other outlets filmed the family visiting the site where the nurse was found dead. Though a public place on a street, this was an intrusion on a moment of grief, surely. The family’s home and its property value had already been published, also irrelevant as it was the scene of no crime or news story.
Then, when the press learned the method of Jacintha Saldanha’s suicide, they ran it. I will not link to the Guardian or Daily Mail articles or others guilty of this breach of the Editors’ Code of Conduct because they don’t deserve further web hits to justify the mistake.
To clarify, the code states:
5. Intrusion into grief or shock
i) In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries and approaches must be made with sympathy and discretion and publication handled sensitively. This should not restrict the right to report legal proceedings, such as inquests.
*ii) When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.
There will be a coroner’s inquest on Thursday into the death, and that will be covered by the press, however that doesn’t not necessarily absolve them of a duty to the second point of this clause.
When public figures such as director Tony Scott take their own life in a public place, it is difficult to avoid reporting the method of their death since it is tied to the location. The UK press restrained themselves for nearly a week from reporting how Mrs Saldanha allegedly died.
There remains no need to go into detail and it adds nothing to the story except for a gawking and morbid fascination by news outlets – for NO other reason than the connection to the royal
Proof of this can be found no further than the BBC having their royal correspondent remain on the case. That smacks of the celebrity fetish the media has for all things royal – not to mention the public who salivate over such stories.
Are we only looking for someone to blame for this mother’s death because a prank phone call was directed at a royal? Sadly, people far too often take their own lives over bullying and being attacked in public, but we ignore it because no celebrity is involved. Media attention may well be warranted over this issue as a whole and sometimes with individuals when friends and family search for answers afterwards.
I am against statutory regulation of the press for a host of reasons, and it shouldn’t take laws to make media outlets show a degree of responsibility and decency. If we condemn Twitter for its occasional mob lapses in ethics and maturity, how should we treat “professional” papers and broadcasters who create the content upon which that mob feeds?
Unless the family specifically asks for coverage, or law enforcement makes formal inquiries in relation to the case, I see no justification for further reporting of this sad loss to a husband and children.
Suicide is too serious to be part of a news fetish.