NY Times Apologizes for 'Insensitive' Coverage of Berkeley Balcony Tragedy

by Sean Federico-O'Murchu /  / Updated 

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The New York Times on Wednesday, responding to a furor in Ireland, apologized for some of its coverage of the deadly accident in Berkeley, California, that led to the death of five Irish students.

In a statement, the paper's spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said that some of the language in a piece about the collapse "could be interpreted as insensitive" and that it was never the paper's intention to blame the victims. She added, "We apologize if the piece left that impression."

Separately, the paper's public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote "the thrust of the story was insensitive, and the reaction to it understandable."

The article, which focused on the summer work visa program under which the college students were in the United States, noted that it has been a "source of embarrassment to Ireland" due to episodes of drunken parties in San Francisco and Santa Barbara.

Irish officials took exception to the piece, complaining about the tone of the article amid a national tragedy. The Irish Ambassador to the United States Anne Anderson wrote that some of the language was both insensitive and inaccurate.

She added, "No one yet knows what caused the collapse of the fourth-floor balcony; the matter is under urgent investigation by structural engineers. The implication of your article — that the behavior of the students was in some way a factor in the collapse — has caused deep offense."

The Irish students killed were identified as Olivia Burke, 21; Eoghan Culligan, 21; Niccolai Schuster, 21; Lorcan Miller, 21; and Eimear Walsh, 21. A sixth victim, Ashley Donohoe, 22, was from California.

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