Prank call nurse Saldanha a victim of the media?
The news that one of the nurses involved in the now infamous prank phone call by two Australian DJs has been found dead in a suspected suicide, has taken the global media by storm.
Nurse Jacintha Saldanha – who leaves behind two teenage children – was found dead in staff lodgings at King Edward VII hospital in London, where she had worked for four years, on Friday morning, after falling victim to an infamous hoax call to the hospital on Tuesday.
Australian DJs Mel Greig and Michael Christian called the hospital where the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge was admitted on Monday. They spoke to Ms Saldanha, posing as the Queen and Prince Philip, who put them through to the Duchess’s private nurse, who gave out personal details about Ms Middleton’s health and condition during the night.
As the news of Ms Saldanha’s suspected suicide hit the already frenzied press, internet users hit social media sites to voice their disgust. Calls for the pair to resign were instantaneous and it has since been announced that they have been suspended. In the wake of this tragedy, however, some are beginning to ask if it is entirely reasonable to blame these two broadcasters for what has happened, or whether it is indicative of larger, more worrying failings.
The media storm surrounding the British Royals since the Royal Wedding has only been exacerbated since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced they were expecting their first child. This week, the press has been commandeered with stories about Kate’s pregnancy, which was only announced now due to her hospitalisation for hyperemesis gravidarum – a severe form of morning sickness. A press pit was immediately erected outside the hospital, and Kate Middleton hit countless headlines in Britain as well as internationally. It could rightly be argued that the Sidney-based 2Day FM presenters were attempting to mock the public’s appetite for royal hearsay, as well as the press’s insistence on reporting every minute aspect of the Duke and Duchess’s daily lives.
Unfortunately the prank, which was pre-recorded and signed off by producers at the radio station, was ill-thought through. The station has form for serious blunders, and this attempt at mockery was lambasted from the outset. In 2009, two other presenters – Kyle Sandilands and Jackie O – coerced a 14-year-old child into admitting that she had been raped live on air, and Mr Sandilands was again the subject of negative press in November 2011 after referring to a female journalist as a “fat slag”.
The station must have known that the hoax was going to affect the lives of those involved, as they were mocking the seriousness with which the British public take our royal news. For broadcasters who so desperately need to rejuvenate their reputation, mocking the royal family and even more brazenly wasting the time of hospital staff – our healthcare system being yet another aspect of British society we prefer not to joke about – is at best thoughtless but at worse malicious.
In a statement, the hospital confirmed Ms Saldanha’s involvement in the hoax but affirmed they “had been supporting her throughout this difficult time” and the hospital’s chairman, Lord Glenarthur, has also gone on to urge the radio station to put an end to such pranks, describing the hoax to be “the humiliation of two dedicated and caring nurses who were simply doing their job”. The Royal Family have confirmed that they will not be lodging a complaint against the hospital, which has since begun reviewing all policies relating to the incident, and have expressed their sorrow at Ms Saldanha’s death. Surely it was the hospital management and the royal spokespersons who failed to deal with the situation, not the nurse who simply did her job.
So where does that leave the Australian DJs? Apologies have been issued by the DJs and their station, and their Twitter accounts have been closed. Many are suggesting that they should be sacked for good, while the internet is awash with shocked members of the public who believe the broadcasters have a guilty conscience.
One thing that most people agree on is how ill-handled the stunt has been. From the producers of the show allowing it to go on air, to the British press’s desperation for gossip about the young royals and to the hospital whose procedures allowed Ms Saldanha to be taken advantage of, massive mistakes appear to have been made throughout the past few days. There is a huge lesson to be learnt here about what is covered in the media, as the huge amount of coverage on the lives of this country’s royalty is being reported in place of other, arguably more pertinent and important stories, making them a great target for anyone wishing to make a mockery of the country’s press. Although it may not bring immediate relief to the British public, and much less to Ms Saldanha’s family, it can only be hoped that the national and international media can take heed from the incident.