11 Dec 2012
If you go through life with the thought that everything you do has a consequence, you cannot go far wrong.
As a journalist and a member of the media - for me personally this is twice as important. The power and influence wielded by the media is quite frightening and no-one in our industry - trade, consumer or national - should ever forget that.
The tragic events following a prank call to a London hospital have been widely reported and commented upon - but I have such strong feelings on the whole thing that I just have to write them down.
Obviously there is no way those DJs could have predicted the awful consequences of their foolish prank - and I do have sympathy with them because they will never get over it - but the truth is, the call should never have been made in the first place. And it certainly should never have been broadcast.
I'm not sure whether it is a symptom of the complete lack of respect this world has for anything nowadays, but in my humble opinion, calling a hospital about a patient, regardless of identity, and for a spoof is just not acceptable.
Anyone that has seen loved ones go through hell at a hospital will understand that it is not a time for having a laugh at anyone's expense.
I worked for several months on a small local radio station, and yes we did do some silly things - but this involved us acting up in a studio rather than getting members of the public involved.
I also worked for three years on a local newspaper, and believe me, having to contact the family of a 10-year old lad killed while crossing a road has stayed with me forever. We also had to ring the hospital for updates on people admitted during road accidents and other horrible events, and I was on duty when Michael Schumacher broke his leg during the Silverstone Grand Prix, so we had regular updates then as well.
Not once did anyone suggest ringing the hospital as a prank. Even then as a trainee journalist, my conscience would have said no.
Now with Twitter and social media, this is even worse. Throwaway comments can have serious consequences as well as many have found out to their detriment.
Everyone must start thinking more before acting/speaking and evaluating what they say and the possible effect it will have on their wider audience and peers.
It is sadly too late for the people involved in this sad episode, but lessons can definitely be learned.