New York Times apologises for blaming Irish Students for the Berkeley horror
The New York Times‘ story on the five Irish students killed when a balcony collapsed at Berkeley included the news that the J1 work-visa program was “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 fourth-floor balcony was mostly decorative, says a member of the Berkeley Design Review Committee that approved the building in 2001. You want to apportion blame? Look beyond the victims (Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh, all aged 21, were Irish. The sixth victim, Ashley Donohue, 22, was from California).
Ireland’s Minister of Equality Aodhán Ó Ríordáin replied:
“Your newspaper’s reporting of the Berkeley tragedy is a disgrace.”
Mr Ó Ríordáin added:
“If that had been victims from any other nation would they have written an article like that? To do so in your early coverage of this tragedy is well, quite frankly disgusting.”
Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy regretted the error, telling the Irish Examiner:
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. It was never our intention to blame the victims and we apologize if the piece left that impression. We will continue to cover this story and report on the young people who lost their lives.
Could. If. As apologies go it’s full of caveats.
Times public editor Margaret Sullivan added something much better:
It is not The Times’s policy to take a published story off its website, but the story would clearly have been written and edited differently now… I can say not only that I believe many of the complaints were valid, but also that I’m very sorry for the pain the story caused.
No ifs. It was ugly.