In the last days of Diana, Princess of Wales, the media was on her case more or less round the clock. There was constant pursuit, much of the copy fuelled by photos taken by paparazzi photographers. In the days following her death, that same media turned to play the other side of the field, blaming and stoking anger against the same snappers that they had been paying handsomely just days before.
Such is the routine hypocrisy of the Fourth Estate, which has been deployed in similar fashion following the sad death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha, who had answered the phone at the King Edward VII Hospital early one morning last week and put through a prank call made by two hosts from Australian station 2Day FM to the ward occupied by Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.
At first, the papers simply reported the hoax call. Then they pored over the contents. Then came the why-oh-why stories. What effect this must have had on Ms Saldanha, away from her family in Bristol while discharging her duties in London, can only be imagined, although we do know that the hospital did not admonish or otherwise discipline her for the incident.
Then came the news of Ms Saldanha’s death. Just as with Diana all those years ago, the papers that had been happily feeding on the 2Day FM prank call immediately about-turned and went after the two hosts. And to be on the safe side, the Saturday edition of the Daily Mail put a photo of one of those hosts, Mel Greig, showing a big smile and plenty of cleavage, on its front page.
So now the Fourth Estate is talking of “anger” against Ms Greig and her co-host Michael Christian, 2Day FM, owners Southern Cross Austereo, and just about anyone else with an Australasian accent. Rumours that the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre will deploy Amanda Platell to write an account of what it is like to personally play both hero and villain are as yet unconfirmed.
On top of the usual level of intrusion, the press has trawled every Twitter feed and Facebook page they can find for the family of Ms Saldanha. Relatives in the Indian city of Mangalore have been sought out and paraded for the cameras. Australian PM Julia Gillard has had to make a statement. A letter from the hospital upbraiding the Australian broadcasters was “damning”, because it came from a peer of the realm.
Yet very few stop and think what is going on here: it is the press who are stoking this wave of anger simply to feed off it and thus generate more cheap copy. After all, with Kate having left the hospital and returned to a life well away from the snappers – and a staff alert to blagging and the rest of the “Dark Arts” – there had to be something to fill the void. So they trample over the memory of Jacintha Saldanha instead.
And, conveniently, it’s someone else’s fault, as with Diana. No change there, then.