Saturday, 8 December 2012

Australian Prankstars Media Fail

Adam Carolla - the American comedian, radio and TV performer - once described a radio show as two dumb guys (people) killing (no pun intended) three hours.  He should know.  He is, by his own admission,  not very bright - although I think he's doing himself a huge disservice;  he's probably the best improviser and the quickest broadcaster on his feet working today - and he's has multiple seven figure radio and TV deals
under his belt in a career spanning over twenty five years.

When an Australian radio duo called the hospital where a woman inside whose body a foetus is growing was being treated for morning sickness, they were in a quest to fill their three hours with content and entertain their audience.  They would have had to be clairvoyants to know that the person who answered and patched the call through to the nurse who then divulged the medical would then go on to take her own life two days later.  And if they had known I don't think they would have made that call, so it's rather silly to castigate them retrospectively.

I think it all comes down to the apparent reverence with which the royal family is regarded all over the world.  The cameras had been parked outside the hospital since Kate Middleton was admitted to the King England VII Hospital reporting every single movement outside and what they thought was happening inside.  Apparently we were on tenterhooks waiting to know.  I would imagine the hospital staff were briefed as to how and who to bow to seeing as they had royalty in their midst.  But judging by how easy it was to get them to cough up the medical details of the patient, it would appear they didn't spend enough time coaching them on how to handle phone enquiries.

Nobody knows exactly what it is that caused Jacintha Saldanha to take her own life.  But one thing is certain: the news organisations reporting on the phone call and camping on the poor nurse's lawn looking to find out how she "felt about patching the call through" that exacerbated the situation.  Guess where they are right now?  On her front lawn looking for reactions from her husband and relatives while pinning all the blame on radio DJs halfway around the world.  We learn today that the Hospital's Chairman wrote to the company that owns the radio station to complain but nobody seems to be asking what he and his management team did or said to support the nurse in the aftermath of the prank call when the world media was baying outside the hospital.

In the old days that would be the end of the fiasco and the normal service would resume in a few weeks time.  Not these days.  There's something called social media now and the news people are gently prompting the unsuspecting members of public to go to the radio station's facebook page to register their complaints.  This has put pressure on advertisers to withdraw from the station (presumably at the advice of their PR people) and it's just going to go on and on.  That's what the media are good at giving you hourly updates on a story they created.

Nobody is saying a nurse should have died and nobody knows if she died because of the phone call but there's something very unhealthy about the media attention on the royal family, the blame culture and this new practice of bombarding people we don't like with messages in unison and then demanding action.  It resembles the Roman Colosseum but may be even more terrifying.

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