Last month I discovered that a friend’s daughter was about to have a case of misconduct heard at the Nursing and Midwifery Council. It came to my attention when the facts of the case, that is the allegations, where printed clearly in the local press alongside the nurses name and details. The girl and her family were distraught, and from that moment received snubs from neighbours and hate mail. When allegations are reported in newspapers, the majority of the public reading them will believe them to be true. Without any doubt. There is always the reliance on ‘no smoke without fire’.
But sadly that’s not the case.
When a person’s name is printed in the press against allegations, their life is set to change. I know. I was the centre of a huge litigation case (documented in my books Catching Babies and Birth Stories for the Soul ) and my name was blazoned across two local papers to my utter horror. It made me ill, and affected my family. And when I was exonerated from any blame years later, there was a tiny piece in one of the papers so small it was missed. But the damage was done. For me, peace only came when I wrote an account of the facts for my books and was able to tell it as it was. So that is why I am saddened to see allegations in print, especially when it involves health professionals and before any conclusion has been made.
Newspaper reporters quite rightly tell us that the information is public, and it is their duty to let the public know and is after all their job-their ‘bread and butter’.
But when I wrote a letter to the editor to highlight the fact the the accounts printed against this particular nurse recently were allegations and not yet proven, the paper declined to print my views. When I received a voicemail from the health reporter in response to my letter and I was mortified.
It’s erh (name) here, the Health Reporter at the (name of newspaper). Erh I am ringing in response to a letter that you’ve sent in to the (paper), regarding the case of (name of nurse) which is being heard at present. I understand after reading the letter that you are unhappy with our coverage of this matter, however we won’t be running your letter as I’d like to point out that this is a public hearing and we are reporting on it just as we would any other case or any other court proceedings fairly and accurately and of course if (name of nurse) is found to be innocent of these charges then we will report on that as well. I don’t believe we’ve done anything incorrect here, I don’t believe we’ve acted in any way shamefully as you seem to have suggested, erh, and as I say erh we will continue to cover cases as is our job, erh scrutinising local services and making sure that these sort of erh, mistakes erh aren’t allowed to happen erh in a publicly funded organisation. Anyway, thank you for your letter and I’ll speak to you soon, I am on xxxx if you have any queries or further comments you’d like to make.
I called the particular newspaper to speak to the reporter, and he had left! I explained my annoyance to his replacement, and followed it up with an email asking for my letter to be published. We’ll see.
The reporter who left the voicemail started his message calmly and sensibly. But then he let his personal views taint his judgment when he declared ‘we will continue to cover cases as is our job, erh scrutinising local services and making sure that these sort of erh, mistakes erh aren’t allowed to happen erh in a publicly funded organisation’.
It is not the role of newspapers to scrutinise public services, but to report on news pertaining to them. So what of this reporter’s future practise and his morals? Who reports on them? It will have to be me, for this moment.