Thursday, 25 August 2016

Misreported News

The JEP reported this on 23 August 2016:

“THE heartbroken mother of a woman who died after being swept out to sea has today paid tribute to her ‘bright and bubbly’ daughter – and said she hopes her death will teach others to respect the coast. Kim Noble has told how her daughter, Joy Godfray, was dragged out in a second as she paddled up to her ankles with a friend in rough seas at Green Island on Saturday.”

“The talented guitarist and pianist would have celebrated her 32nd birthday the day after the tragedy. And Mrs Noble said she also wanted people to know the ‘true facts’ about her daughter’s death after a series of hurtful comments were posted on social media, including one which stated that rescuers should have left her body in the sea and another which branded her ‘brain dead’ for going into the water.”

But the story was reported very differently in earlier versions of the news. Rather than being someone paddling who fell and was then swept out by an undercurrent from a wave, the news stories all gave the same impression: that Joy Godfray was out swimming in the treacherous seas. Nowhere did it mention what has just been mentioned, that she was dragged out when just paddling in ankle deep water.

This was how the story was reported on August 21 in the JEP:

“A SWIMMER has died after getting into difficulty in rough seas at Green Island. The Fire and Rescue inshore RIB and an RNLI lifeboat were launched at about 8.20 pm on Saturday. One male swimmer had already been rescued by a member of the public but another - a woman in her 30s - was dragged east towards Le Hocq.”

Another story around the same date said:

“A SWIMMER who died after getting into difficulty off Green Island yesterday evening has been named as 31-year-old Joy Godfray.”

And on August 22, the report said:

“A WOMAN died after being dragged out to sea in treacherous conditions at Green Island at the weekend. Joy Godfray got into difficulty while swimming with a male friend at high tide on Saturday evening as the Island was battered by strong winds and pounded by big swells. The man, believed to be aged in his 30s, was rescued by a member of the public but Miss Godfray was carried away from the shore and towards Le Hocq.”

This is a mixed report; it gets the fact that she was dragged out to sea, but also suggests that she was dragged out while swimming, not while paddling.

The Sun also reported:

“Jersey Fire Service’s rescue boat and two RNLI lifeboats set out to sea at approximately 8.20am yesterday morning following reports of two swimmers caught in rough conditions.”

The Independent reported:

“A woman drowned while swimming off the coast of Jersey.”

And yet the same article mentions another drowning – “A man has died after being swept into the sea as he sat on rocks with his family in Cornwall.”

The Daily Mail had:

"Swimmer Joy Godfray died in hospital after getting into difficulty off Green Island in Jersey on Saturday night - the day before her 32nd birthday. "

And the Mirror:

"The woman who died after swimming off Green Island in Jersey last night has been named as Joy Godfray."

Even the BBC report has this same misrepresentation of the facts:

“A swimmer who died after getting into difficulty in the sea off Jersey has been named. Joy Godfray, who would have been 32 on Sunday, was rescued by the coastguard near Green Island at 21:00 BST on Saturday, but was pronounced dead in hospital. A man swimming with her was helped to shore by a member of the public.”

I think that even if someone had been foolhardy enough to swim in such treacherous conditions, that it is simply cruel and thoughtless to say as much on Facebook, as appears to have happened.

When I read the earlier stories, I did wonder why on earth anyone would be swimming in such a sea, in force 7, gusting to force 8, a powerful swell and tempestuous waves. It seemed lunacy. But I didn’t comment. The family would have enough to grieve over without heartless comments.

But other people read that story, and decided to comment.

As a result of that darker side of social media, the JEP’s latest story tells us what really happened, and suddenly it makes a lot more sense.

Paddling, and stumbling, and dragged out by a sudden wave: this was the true story. It is a tragic story, but it is also a tragedy that the story was misrepresented by the media for so long.

But despite that misleading reporting, it is good to see so many tributes, even before the true story was told. 

Scores of people have written messages of condolence to the family – some who clearly knew Joy. Karen says she was a ‘wonderful girl’, and Nat writes ‘thanks for being a dear friend – for all the teenage fun and laughs.’ Steven says she was always kind-hearted and cheerful, and a former teacher says ‘I have never forgotten her cheeky sense of humour and mischievous smile’.

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