With
the debate raging about media responsibility when reporting on
traumatic circumstances in mind, last week I was back in Australia to
visit family. Whilst passing
through Sydney, I caught up with my friend Polly.

You have
probably heard of Polly’s dad, Harry Seidler. But you probably don’t
know Polly. And you probably don’t know Polly’s family. They aren’t
public figures, they aren’t politicians, they aren’t media celebrities.
And they are grieving. However, some of the media believe that Harry’s
death suddenly makes the people close to him fair game.

Polly’s
dad died around 7am. Later that morning, the ABC telephoned Polly’s
cousin to ask her to confirm the rumour that Harry had died.
Later
that morning, another one of Polly’s cousins was contacted by her son’s
school, Bondi Public School. The school said that someone from the ABC
had telephoned the school because they knew her sons attended the
school, and they wanted to know Polly’s cousin’s number.

Polly’s
family contacted a public relations firm and put out a statement around
midday. The statement asked the press to contact the public relations
agency for further information. The statement said quite clearly that
the family was grieving and asked the press to respect their privacy.

That
afternoon, the Philip Clark segment at 2GB rang Polly’s family home.
Polly answered the phone. They asked if Polly’s mum could give them an
interview. When Polly said her mother wasn’t really ready to give an
interview, they asked if Polly would be willing to give them an
interview.

Why did they think that Polly’s mum or Polly would be
willing to give them an interview less than six hours after their
husband and father had just died? Kind of makes you wonder.

Peter Fray

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