McAleese tells New York Times ‘Shame on you’ over J1 students story
Former Irish President Mary McAleese has slammed the New York Times for their coverage of the tragic deaths of the Irish students in California.
McAleese was appalled by the report and has written a strongly worded letter telling the paper “shame on you” and accusing them of using “lazy tabloid stereotypes”.
Six people were killed on Tuesday evening after a fourth floor balcony collapsed during celebrations at a 21st birthday party.
Five of the victims were young Irish students in America as part of the J1 work and study program.
Shockingly, the New York Times ran a story on their website the following day questioning the behaviour of Irish J1 students and accusing them of “being a source of embarrassment for Ireland”.
The story provoked an angry backlash from people in both Ireland and America who were stunned by the insensitivity of the paper.
The former President spent some time studying in America herself is the early 1970s, and considers the J1 Visa a fantastic opportunity for young Irish people.
She defended the students who died by pointing out that the New York Times had “rushed to judgement on their character without the remotest evidence”.
New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan was asked about the report on television show Newstalk Breakfast. She said: “I think the New York Times made some pretty bad mistakes with this story and, yes, I think it was insensitive and not handled properly. I agree it was insensitive and that the complaints are very valid.
“I would like to explain quickly that as the public editor I don’t write or edit stories, I am an independent readers’ representative, so I can’t really speak for the paper and I’m speaking for myself.
“It was explained to me that it was not the first day that the story went up online, it was kind of a second day approach story. I don’t think that was an excuse and I don’t think that it was appropriate but that’s the, I guess you could say, reason for it. You know, to go more deeply into another angle or to examine the visa programme.”
The New York Times has apologised if the report caused any offence but insisted they will not take it down.