Caroline Flack: James O'Brien's moving monologue about the effects of tabloids and trolls

17 February 2020, 11:55 | Updated: 17 February 2020, 14:20

This is James O'Brien's moving monologue about the effects of tabloids and Twitter trolls after Caroline Flack took her own life which many have attributed to haranguing from the media.

Two petitions have since been set up in her name to introduce stricter laws around press conduct and have collectively reached close to 800,000 signatures.

James reflected that when he showbiz editor on a national newspaper, he had an editor that allowed him not to indulge "in the excesses and abuses that are commonplace in the profession" which he branded as pure "luck."

Despite feeling slightly embarrassed, James admitted that if he had had an editor with a different disposition, he wouldn't have had the financial security or the moral confidence to refuse to stories he'd now be ashamed of.

James said you could probably trace modern tabloid culture back to when Rupert Murdoch bought The Sun as he "realised how much money could be made from commoditising - to be kind - fetishising - to be a little less charitable - death and tragedy."

Floral tributes outside Caroline Flack's former North London home
Floral tributes outside Caroline Flack's former North London home. Picture: PA

He acknowledged that trolling on social media can also hurt deeply: "If you are dedicating more than two minutes of your day trying to hurt people that you've never met because they happen to be 'famous'... there's nothing new about that impulse.

"There's something about social media that has magnified phenomena that has long existed in a way that does to me as a former Fleet Street showbiz journalist...does feel a little bit different."

Having a background as a Fleet Street journalist, James said he'd paid very little notice to trolls but for former TOWIE star Mark Wright, who James heard discuss online abuse, "If you come from a non-journalistic background, it must be really weird. To hear him say it does actually hurt, it made me a little bit embarrassed actually."

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me is probably one of the biggest lies humanity has ever told itself and yet we all sang that in the 1970s and the 1980s."

He countered that it is dangerous and irresponsible to presume one single issue could have provoked Caroline Flack's suicide.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK.

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