Kate Middleton's pregnancy and a prank gone royally wrong

A Duchess became pregnant- a prank call was made- and a nurse is now dead. Who is responsible?

Jamaluddin December 11, 2012
When the sun rose on December 5, three people on this planet did not have a clue that their lives were about to change drastically. You may not know them yet, but those three people were; Jacintha Saldanha, Mel Greig and Michael Christian.

When the media frenzy began over Kate Middleton’s pregnancy, it came across to the people working at Australia’s 2DayFM radio station as the need for intense media scrutiny of the Royal House of Windsor and a prank call.

And so it was decided, that radio DJs Mel Greig and Micheal Christian would take part in a prank call to the King Edward VII Hospital in London where Kate Middleton was admitted. They would pretend to be Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles and would try to get through to Kate Middleton.

The number was dialled and the call was received by Nurse Jacintha Saldanha, a married mother of two children. The prank callers identified themselves as the Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles and inquired as to the updates on Kate Middleton’s health.

To their immense surprise, they were put through to Kate Middleton’s ward where another nurse gave them confidential details about Kate’s medical condition.

The call ended and the news spread.

They all laughed, Prince Charles pronounced it as a joke and the DJs shared their success with the world at large. The hospital and the nurses came under intense English media scrutiny.

Two days later, Jacnitha Saldanha, 46, wife and mother to a daughter and a son, was dead.

It has been reported that Jacintha died of shame as she may have been devastated by the fact that she unwittingly assisted a prank call, which involved confidential data, about a globally known British Royal, being leaked into media circles- ridiculing her and the rest of the nurses at the hospital- but the police have yet to confirm the details.

For two days, when everybody was laughing and the British press was voicing its disbelief that two people with such horrible British accents could easily get access to a Royal’s private health information- all the attention was now diverted towards the Australian DJ’s- they were now to bear the brunt. Some tabloids declared the two Aussies as having the blood of the nurse on their hands and a storm of furious tweets and hate mail deluged 2DayFM. People from around the world, especially the UK, called for the DJs to step down and face inquiries.

After three days- the two shell shocked and visibly distressed DJs- appeared for two interviews on Australian channels and apologised for the prank call describing their emotions as 'shattered, gutted and heartbroken".

While it may have been a harmless prank call in the minds of Greg and Mel, it is worth noting that they were not the final authority on the prank call that was made. As they explained, it was a part of the team process and they refused to give the names of the higher ups that gave a go ahead. People are lambasting them for their prank call, and yes, the actions were reprehensible, but to blame them altogether for the unforeseeable death of a nurse is going a bit too far. No one could have predicted such an extreme reaction. What the self righteous people, in their admirable haste to call for blood, forget is that just five days ago they were the same people laughing at the prank. The intense media coverage might also have contributed to Jacintha’s death.

Where once this prank was being regarded as the best international scoop so far, it is now being regarded as being a deplorable act.

We can all safely say that the two radio presenters didn’t foresee these events unfolding and, in my opinion, they are being subjected to an unfair global tirade of hate, of which half the participants are just jumping onto the bandwagon as is the norm in the social media. This is all too apparent in the useless trends that clutter the Twitter-sphere and Facebook.

They have already faced the heat of the intense media coverage- more so than was deserved- and if this was enough to crumble Nurse Jacintha, how would the media feel if their intense bombardment of accusations levelled against these two presenters had a similarly extreme affect?

Yes, 2DayFM has been guilty in the past of such pranks, and it had been served notices by the Australian authorities sans harsher penalties, it is up to the authorities to question the higher ups of the 2DayFM and the management of Southern Cross Autero Media that owns the radio channel.

On the other hand the media, especially the British media, reporting on the incident should take a balanced approach, more so after the Leveson Report.

The Royals in Britain have been negatively impacted by the media a number of times- one of which even resulted in the death of Princess Diana- maybe this should be a clue to their overbearing attitude. A nurse has already died and more deaths can take place if the media is not careful; let us not scar the remaining ones. It is time to review the practices and code of conduct rather than targeting individuals to increase ratings.

Read more by Jamaluddin here or follow him on Twitter @einsjam 
Jamaluddin A student of Information Systems Management at Latrobe University, Melbourne. He tweets @Einsjam (https://twitter.com/Einsjam)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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