What happens when ‘ambulence chasing tabloid journalism’ goes badly wrong – The Netherlands and De Telegraaf

Subscribers cancel over Ruben interview – Dutch daily De Telegraaf has said it expects to lose thousands of subscribers because of its telephone interview with orphaned plane crash survivor Ruben.

The paper talked to the nine-year-old boy in a Lybian hospital on 12 May, even before he was aware that his parents and brother had been killed in the Tripoli plane crash. The acccident with the Afriqyiah Airways Airbus cost 103 lives. The Dutch boy was the only survivor. The cause of the crash remains unclear. The paper was sharply criticised for what was seen as an unacceptable infringement of the boy’s privacy. De Telegraaf’s Commercial Director Frank Volmer said in an interview that it had been wrong to publish the report on Ruben. Immediately after publication, countless people telephoned the paper to cancel their subscripitions, daily Trouw reported on Tuesday. Mr Volmer told Trouw, “Those who cancelled were not just people with a short-term trial subscription, but also faithful Telegraaf readers who had been taking the paper for decades. That is truly worrying. An apology published by De Telegraaf on its website and on its frontpage did little to stem the tide of cancellations. The reporting of Ruben’s tragic circumstances without regard for his privacy also led to criticism of other Dutch media. Several leading TV channels showed images of the boy in his Lybian hospital bed. The Netherlands’ Union of Journalists (NVJ) and the Board of Journalism, a disciplinary body, are debating the ethical limits of journalism on Tuesday night.



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