Editor’s note: Sarah Ivens is an author, blogger, and contributing writer for the British tabloid The Daily Mail. Her book, “Amerikarma: Good Things Come to Those Who Can’t Wait” -- a memoir about her life as a tabloid editor and beyond -- is out on Amazon.
How quickly a news event can turn from a fairytale conclusion to a wonderful year for the British people (the Queen’s Jubilee, the London 2012 Olympics) to something tragic and confusing.
In just five days -- some severe sickness and a silly prank call after the happy announcement of Kate Middleton’s pregnancy -- a nurse, who was helping out on reception at the royals' preferred hospital and put the call from two Australian DJs pretending to be Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles through, is dead.
The nurse leaves behind a husband, two young sons, and an uneasy feeling of guilt with everyone who enjoyed the humor of this seemingly harmless joke.
But who is to blame for her death? Twitter and newspaper comment pages are alive with calls for the two DJs to be fired and prosecuted. But did they really think their early morning call would lead to anything more than a giggle and a light ticking off for the staff involved? No, they didn’t even think they’d get through. The masses are now calling this scam mean -- but pranks are only ever funny to the people not having the prank played on them. When the joke is on you, it’s never a joking matter.
Did the Palace or the hospital discipline her, or her fellow nurse who gave away too much information about Kate’s condition, too harshly and drive her to the edge? Apparently not. The general feeling from everyone in London was pity that the two nurses had been hoodwinked and that it could have happened to anyone. The hospital has described the victim as excellent, popular and hard-working.
And now the press will speculate that this event was just the catalyst and that the woman must have had other things going on. They will dig and push until a difficult childhood or a troubled marriage comes to light, and she will not be there to defend herself. And some people will blame the press themselves, for tearing down barriers between private and public information over the last few decades, making this intrusion into the Duchess of Cambridge’s privacy seem acceptable and amusing.
So what are we left with? We’re left with a sad, dark tarnish on lovely news that should have only been coated with joy, excitement and anticipation. We’re left with a universal feeling of shame for finding amusement in a silly news story that has left two children motherless. And we’re left with a couple of careers needlessly in ruins.
There is no way to be positive about this story: no lessons learnt, no happy ending found through apologies or forgiveness. Jacintha Saldanha is gone and her family, friends and colleagues will miss her.
Playing the blame game won’t help them.