Following the apparent suicide of the nurse who was a victim of a radio prank…

radio microphone

Those of us (and I suspect we are many) who until last week could not name a single Australian radio presenter can now name two – Michael Christian and Mel Grieg, the forlorn duo who made the hoax phone call to London’s King Edward VII hospital during the Duchess of Cambridge’s recent stay there.

It emerged fairly early on in this sad saga that the phone conversation had been pre-recorded, and could therefore easily have been checked and disposed of by the radio show’s producer or editor.  Yet his or her name has not been noticeable amongst the millions of words already penned  about the prank.

Presenters are hired by a radio station to do what they do best – make people laugh, conduct informed interviews with sports stars, sound cheerful in the mornings, or whatever.  With anything ‘live’, we have to presume they are going to show a measure of professionalism, such as not letting slip a swear word.  With everything else, the buck must stop with the editor.  In the case of a newspaper, it is the Editor with a capital E who would receive an unwelcome letter from lawyers in the wake of a libellous story, not the journalist who wrote it.  If a clothing brand came out with a sexist advertising slogan it would be the people at the top of the business who would get the rap, and not the agency copywriter.

The Australian presenters should not have tried to invade the Duchess’ privacy, and their post-hoax bragging (until news came of the nurse’s death) was unseemly.  But the guilt they are feeling is more than enough punishment for now: and if it’s any consolation to them that at least one of their backroom colleagues should be helping them shoulder the blame.