Remember Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? It appears that the Irish media has its equivalent in the Irish Times, which managed to publish no fewer than three contradictory and hypocritical statements yesterday as it sought to satisfy its readers and a PR company regarding the Kate Fitzgerald affair.
Kate was a PR consultant who killed herself just after submitting an anonymous piece to the Irish Times pleading for employers to show more understanding towards staff with depression. The revelation of her identity last week has led to a pretty squalid affair where the newspaper has sought to suppress key elements of her message to satisfy her employers, the Communications Clinic.
The first message, an apology published in the newspaper, was clearly aimed at the PR company. To put it bluntly, it portrayed Kate as a fantasist who had written false allegations about her treatment at the hands of her employers.
The second, aimed at the mob rightly baying for the newspaper’s blood on Facebook, suggested that the newspaper supported Kate’s message and that its treatment in the newspaper was “consistent with a long standing policy on the part of The Irish Times to encourage a more open approach within society to the reality of suicide and to provide a forum for debate about it and related issues”.
The irony of this second missive is that the Irish Times have been far from open in this affair: it secretly re-edited Kate’s article after complaints from the Communications Clinic and only confessed under immense pressure from her friends. It has also sought to kill off the debate on employer’s attitudes to depression provoked by Kate’s article by dismissing her as a fantasist whose article contained “significant assertions… [where] were not factual”.
The third message of the day from the Irish Times, however, really took the biscuit when it came to hypocrisy. In it, the paper’s online editor Hugh Linehan, stated that the Irish Times’ comments to date had been limited due to the “highly sensitive nature of this story for the people involved” and that its response “should be measured and be published at the right time”.
This is a bit rich from a newspaper which had just accused a dead woman of being a liar as her friends came together to remember her and the impact that she had on their lives.
My only conclusion from all these mixed messages is that the Irish Times is either (a) staffed by fools and cowards; (b) staffed by people who take their readers for fools; or (c) a bunch of hypocrites. No doubt the newspaper will respond in triplicate as it attempts to cover all its bases.