Words: Adam Kay
Here’s what 2DayFM presenters Mel Greig and Michael Christian probably thought was going to happen when they made that prank call to King Edward VII’s Hospital Sister Agnes.
Greig: “Oh, hello there. Could I please speak to Kate, please? My granddaughter?”
Nurse: “No! Who is this? You sound nothing like Her Maj! You sound like a blonde Australian radio DJ doing a playground impression of The Queen! Go away!”
But things didn’t go according to the script – they went very differently indeed. Instead of the joke being something for 2DayFM’s listeners to have a little giggle at and then forget about completely, it has become a proper international scandal, made lots of people very angry and resulted in Greig and Christian being suspended from their jobs. And now – directly or indirectly – someone has died because of it. Not, one would have thought, the punchline the presenters were anticipating.
Jacintha Saldanha – the nurse who answered that call and transferred the mickey-taking DJs through to the staff treating the Duchess – has been found dead after apparently taking her own life. Suicide is one of the most traumatic and difficult things for victim’s families to have to deal with, but that Saldanha’s death appears to have been triggered by the ridicule she received for her simple mistake is an enormous tragedy.
Who to blame, then? It’s somebody’s fault, right? No, actually. And therein lays the problem with this whole episode.
Whenever a controversy like this arises, there’s a tendency to immediately look for a scapegoat – a ‘grab your torch and pitchfork’ mentality which can make people abandon reasonable, measured thought. And that’s just not right.
Of course, we shouldn’t ignore how nightmarish the situation is for those affected by the presenter’s actions. It’s annoying for the young Royal couple – especially Kate, who is presumably spending every waking hour trying desperately not to vom all over William’s lovely blazer, and therefore could do without all this nonsense. It’s embarrassing for the hospital, particularly as it’s held the esteemed position of being the Royal Family’s go-to place for medical care for years – a position which is now looking a bit wobbly, to be honest. And it’s heartbreaking for Saldanha’s family – not least her two young boys, who must now go through life motherless.
But none of these things are the fault of those Australian DJs. Their prank was childish – stupid, even – but it wasn’t malicious. And that’s the crucial thing.
Had Saldanha not transferred that call, none of this would have happened. That’s certainly not to say she’s to blame – she simply made an error of judgement. Like all humans do at some point in their lives. Like Greig and Christian did, in hindsight, when they decided to call King Edward VII’s.
Ultimately, the pair were just being silly. They weren’t specifically intending to upset anybody – they were just doing it for the LOLs. You only have to listen to Christian’s Prince Charles impression (an acting performance which has more in common with Spitting Image than Daniel Day-Lewis) to know that the duo weren’t trying to cause any trouble – they were just being daft. They’re fools, not criminals.
Send your thoughts to Jacintha Saldanha’s family, and remember her dedication to her job. Wish Kate and Wills good luck with their pregnancy. But don’t punish the silliness of two Australians. That would just be silly.