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Prank Call from DJ’s Not Responsible for Nurse’s Suicide *Updated*

Saldhana took the two radio presenters’ call to King Edward VII Hospital last Tuesday and, believing them to be the British monarch and her son, patched the pair through to another nurse, who revealed details of Middleton’s condition. On Friday, Saldhana was found unconscious and then declared dead at her apartment around the corner from the hospital in central London. [Los Angeles Times]

HAS THE world gone mad?

Two DJs make a prank call, pretending to be royals, which leads to the suicide of a nurse who made a professional mistake, and now the radio hosts are being blamed for actions over which they had no control.

It’s understandable that both Mel Greig and Michael Christian feel awful at what happened. Their interview in the aftermath is certainly contrite, but taking blame is not only outrageous, but borderline irresponsible. That their broadcast has been suspended is an appalling overreaction, though banning prank calls is understandable.

Statement from Southern Cross Austereo:

Southern Cross Austereo (SCA) are deeply saddened by the tragic news of the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha from King Edward VII’s Hospital and we extend our deepest sympathies to her family and all that have been affected by this situation around the world.

Chief Executive Officer Rhys Holleran has spoken with the presenters, they are both deeply shocked and at this time we have agreed that they not comment about the circumstances. SCA and 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.

The tragic death of Ms. Saldhana is horrifying, but of accepting responsibility for a woman’s choice to take her own life is absurd.

As much as I appreciate the contrition of both DJs, their statements should also come with the refusal to take on the guilt of the tragedy.

Having dabbled in radio myself, it’s impossible to put myself in the position of the DJs, because prank calls were never my thing. However, as someone who’s been in media for 20 years, an entertainer and cultural commentator for over 30, and had many a discussion in public forums and over international airwaves, I also know that my right of free speech is fundamental in the exchange of ideas and entertainment, but nothing I say has the power to force anyone to do anything.

Southern Cross Austereo, Mel Greig and Michael Christian are correct in offering their sympathies and deep sorrow at the news of Jacintha Saldanha’s choice to kill herself. SCA, however, is dead wrong, as are the DJs, in choosing to silence their own voices that should be on air as long as they have an audience and advertisers to support their forum. The importance of dialogue after this sad contagion of events is also critical to the health of talk radio itself.

There is something very wrong about DJs accepting blame for someone’s suicide after a prank call. The precedence SCA is setting is potentially harrowing.

2Day’s FM Hot 30 Show has been canceled, according to a statement released today by SCA.

UPDATE: SCA is now preparing to donate at least $524,000 to a fund created for Saldhana’s family.

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6 Responses to Prank Call from DJ’s Not Responsible for Nurse’s Suicide *Updated*

  1. jjamele December 10, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    Let me get this straight:

    Two DJs con a fragile woman into revealing information. Later, that woman commits suicide.

    Out of respect and contrition, the two DJs apologize for their part in pushing a fragile woman over the edge, and announce that out of respect for her memory, they will take some time off from doing their show.

    Your response: to express horror at the idea that the DJs are in any way responsible, calling it “absurd” and “very wrong” and “potentially harrowing” and dismissing the idea that words can hurt.

    You know, I pretty much gave up on this site a while back, when it became clear that your notion of logic and fair play simply did not sinc with mine. You allowed me to be called a racist and essentially told me to shrug it off. You let certain posters spew juvenile bile, then erase others when they respond. You allow certain criticism of the President, but when you don’t think it’s warranted, you call it Obama Derangement Syndrome. You criticize the shallowness of our culture, then devote pages to reviews of movies and Royal Weddings and Mad Men.

    In short, you strike me as a rather disorganized, willful person who doesn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking things through with any sense or rationale. Maybe we are just too different in what we view as important or fair, but there it is.

    Good luck with your blog, Taylor. For what it’s worth, I did enjoy your e-book.

    • Chameleon December 11, 2012 at 4:51 am #

      Okay, enough is enough. There is no way that a “Devout Catholic, mother of 3″ takes her own life and orphans her children over a prank phone call, even if it does get some media attention. This woman clearly had more going on in her life to drive her to take such an extreme action, but these issues, whatever they were, will never come to light because of the fear of staining the victims memory. To pin the responsibility for this tragedy entirely on two radio D.J.’s is atrocious and those who are having fun jumping on this bandwagon to watch them squirm in guilt should be ashamed of themselves.

  2. Taylor Marsh December 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    Thanks for buying my book.

    I cover the world as it is today, from politics to culture and foreign policy, all of it revealing the world as it is.

    I don’t cut & paste it for anyone’s approval, never have, never will.

  3. jjamele December 10, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

    I hope you never do, because I think you are a pretty awesome writer. It’s just a little too cluttered and haphazard for me, but I never meant to imply it was anyone else’s problem but mine.

    • Taylor Marsh December 10, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

      A magazine is about all sorts of topics, which reveals the wider world in which we live, from serious to trivial, with the focus much broader now than ever before. It’s where I’ve wanted to shift for some time, but began in earnest this fall.

      Have a festive holiday, jjamele!

  4. Jane December 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    I am saddened by the news of the nurse’s suicide. However, I in no way feel that the two DJ’s are responsible. It’s unfortunate that she fell for their prank but that’s just what it was………..a prank!!!! If she felt this to be so bad that she needed to end her life, then I question two things. What else in her life was troubling her? And how nasty were her bosses that she felt falling for such a prank was worth taking her own life? There is definitely something more going on with her than just falling for such an innocent and harmless prank. I feel sorry for the family’s loss and I feel just as sorry for the two DJ’s who feel their actions had anything to do with the loss of this woman’s life.

    Jane

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong