It has been interesting to watch the role the media have played in the story of prankster radio presenters in Australia who telephoned the hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated last week. The mainstream media were happy to play the text of the prank calls and thought it all a hoot until the staff member forwarding the prank call reportedly committed suicide.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, even those broadcasting the soundtrack and printing the text are saying the radio presenters should have foreseen what could happen. It all rings a little hollow to me. These are the same tabloid press and women's mags who seem quite happy to use photographs or recordings, even if taken in a clandestine manner, a scam, or in some other secret way.
Seeing the stress of people hounded by the press is not a pretty sight. Even for those of us who just get misreported, misquoted or badly photographed, the blood rises, but at least for politicians it is all part of the job. To be hounded, pranked and punked while just going about your duty, in this case in a hospital, is something totally different.
The British media have been caught out behaving in an appalling manner recently. It has ranged from the unscrupulous bugging of phones to meddling in police investigations, all in order to get "the scoop" ahead of other media outlets. Their response to the Aussie scam was far different from media in New Zealand. It is now amazing to see how pious the English media have become in light of this tragedy.
Some media seek to separate themselves from other publications and brands of journalism. They seek to differentiate and disinfect themselves from any collective responsibility. Some would say we shouldn't let them - they are all media.
Yet this is the same way we make blanket assertions of other occupational groups such as used-car salesmen, teachers, lawyers, judges and, yep, even politicians. The trouble with lumping any group together is that sooner or later we want to separate them so we can rely on their integrity in spite of all the perceived evidence against them: "All lawyers are crooks except my lawyer, who can be trusted", "All politicians are corrupt except the one I voted for, who is a truly nice bloke [or blokes]".
And the trouble with scathing all media is that we truly want to rely on information we gain from the press and the broadcaster. Unless we investigate for ourselves, all information is written by someone and so, sooner or later, we have to rely on the word of another. For current affairs, and many other sorts of affairs it seems, we have to rely on the gossip we hear most often - the media.
Love them or hate them, seems we are stuck with them. And they with us.