New York Times coverage of Berkeley tragedy labelled 'a disgrace'

The Minister of State for Equality has labelled one American report on the tragedy in Berkeley as "a disgrace".

New York Times coverage of Berkeley tragedy labelled 'a disgrace'

The Minister of State for Equality has labelled one American report on the tragedy in Berkeley as "a disgrace".

Aodhan Ó Riordain has criticised the New York Times on Twitter, which claims the J1 visa programme has become "a source of embarrassment for Ireland".

The report notes how the birthday party in Berkeley, which was taking place when the balcony collapsed, had been loud and kept neighbours awake.

"I think it would be the right thing to do to withdraw that report and apologise," the minister said. "We have six Irish people who are now dead as a result of a tragedy because a balcony collapsed. No other reason.

"The nature and tone of the article is a disgrace … newspaper editors need to realise how sensitive this issue is."

MORE: Families to learn cause of Berkeley tragedy as tributes pour in

In today's edition, the newspaper wrote that "the work-visa program that allowed for the exchanges has in recent years become not just a source of aspiration, but also a source of embarrassment for Ireland.

"[It has been] 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 paper then reported the facts of the tragedy before returning to the issue of J1 visas, citing a column for The Irish Voice written a year ago which mentioned "the callous destruction unleashed by these loaded Irish students" of a San Francisco home.

It also referenced a "work-hard, party-hard lifestyle" and "requests for house party sites".

Minister O'Riordain was joined by many others on the social network who were critical of the New York Times for linking a tragedy in which six lost their lives to a destructive, partying lifestyle.

After the controversy exploded on social media in Ireland, the public editor of the New York Times, Margaret Sullivan, said she was investigating the issue.

"Sincere sympathy to all affected by #Berkeley tragedy. Please know that I am aware of reaction and will look into it today," she tweeted.

The Public Editor's role is to act independently of the newspaper's editors and reporters, deal with reader questions, and "investigate matters of journalistic integrity".

Ms Sullivan has been a juror on the Pulitzer Prize Board - for the world's most prestigious journalism prize - four times.

Meanwhile, the US Ambassador to Ireland has defended the J1 Visa programme. Kevin O'Malley said the programme has always enjoyed huge support on both sides of the Atlantic.

"Yesterday's tragedy is almost unspeakable, but 150,000 Irish students have participated in this programme over the years … and the programme has been widely successful," he said.

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