Saturday 22 October 2016

New York Times 'apologises' for its coverage of Berkeley tragedy

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin

The New York Times have issued a statement following sharp criticism over its coverage of the tragedy in Berkeley in which six Irish students died, and another seven were injured.

"We understand and agree that some of the language in the piece could be interpreted as insensitive, particularly in such close proximity to this tragedy," said NYT Vice President Eileen Murphy.

READ MORE: 'Exceptionally likeable and very hard-working' - former school of Berkeley balcony victim Lorcán Miller pays tribute

"It was never our intention to blame the victims and we apologise if the piece left that impression. We will continue to cover this story and report on the young people who lost their lives."

READ MORE: Dry rot may have caused balcony collapse which killed six students at 21st birthday party

"It was intended to explain in greater detail why these young Irish students were in the U.S.,"

The prestiguous newspaper used the tragedy of a balcony collapsing to bring up negative stories about J1 students in the past.

"They come by the thousands — Irish students on work visas, many flocking to the West Coast to work in summer jobs by day and to enjoy the often raucous life in a college town at night," it begins.

"It was, for many, a rite of passage, one last summer to enjoy travel abroad before beginning a career."


The NYT - regarded as one of the world's most-prestigious papers - then displayed an incredible lack of compassion, adding that the work-visa programme used by Irish students has “become not just a source of aspiration, but also a source of embarrassment for Ireland, marked by a series of high-profile episodes involving drunken partying and the wrecking of apartments in places like San Francisco and Santa Barbara”.

The Equality Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin has branded the article a "disgrace" in a tweet sent to the paper, and the article has created a storm on social media with some users describing it as “crass” and “insensitive”.

The report notes how the birthday party in Berkeley, which was taking place when the balcony collapsed, had been loud and kept neighbours awake.

The New York Times has responded to the criticism this afternoon. Public editor Margaret Sullivan offered her "sincere sympathy" to all those affected by the tragedy.

She added: "Please know that I am aware of reaction and will look into it today".

But Renua Leader Lucinda Creighton has said that the New York Times should apologise for and withdraw their grotesque article on the Berkeley tragedy.

“It is truly ghoulish that at a time where sensitivity is required in dealing with the utterly sad plight of families which have to deal with the death of young children that the New York Times, a supposedly reputable media outlet would launch such a facile assault upon the character and activities of young Irish students," she said.

"The despicable New York Times piece by contrast appears to have used the deaths of these young people to engage in a diatribe about young Irish people that the racists in the 19th century Punch magazine would be embarrassed by," she added.

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