10 Feb 2012

Half Hearted Apology from Irish Examiner

The Irish Examiner today repeated the half-apology they made on Tuesday but have still failed to retract the article. An article is published in which they share the Psychological Society of Ireland's condemnation of the article and their disagreement with Humhrey's views.
The Psychological Society of Ireland (PSI) has described as "unhelpful and likely to cause upset" comments by clinical psychologist Tony Humphreys that inferred parents of children with autism were to blame for their child’s condition.

Mr Humphreys made the comments in an article published in this newspaper a week ago. They have been criticised both by fellow experts and parents of children who have the condition.

"It is grossly inaccurate and demonstrated a clear ignorance of the most basic understanding of autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD)," said Brigid Sinnott, manager of ABA and Autism Services in St Catherine’s Association.

Dr Humphreys has since said parents were "never to blame" for autism and his intention was simply "to inform and enlighten".

PSI president Michael Drumm said: "Tony Humphreys’ assertions are not supported by the vast body of published research in the field of ASDs and are unhelpful and likely to cause upset."
ENOUGH of the guff about what Tony Humphreys intentions were- lots of people do harm unintentionally but they should still be held to account.

Here comes the apology bit:
Irish Examiner editor Tim Vaughan, in an editorial earlier this week, apologised for the hurt caused by Dr Humphreys’ comments.

"His comments have caused enormous upset for many parents and relatives of children with autism and I very much regret and am sorry for this," said Mr Vaughan last night.
This is a classic non-apology. Tim Vaughan is sorry, not for the actions of his paper, but for the reactions we have had to it and I do not need Tim Vaughan to apologise for me.

I think it is the best we can hope to get from this newspaper. I think they have a very skewed sense of decency and ethics. Tony Humphreys is back writing his pcychobabble column in today's Irish Examiner Feelgood section. And again his topic of choice is "love." I have not had a chance to read it yet but have it good authority that it adheres to the man's usual standards of expression, logic and accuracy.

Let us not forget that this is not all about autism. A bit of searching has shown that this man has pontificated on all sorts of serious conditions: asthma, IBS, cancer, schizophrenia, tonsillitis. The Irish Examiner have taken his columns on IBS and asthma down from their site. Yet they still employ him to write as an expert in their health supplement. I find this astonishing.

The Irish Examiner have a very skewed sense of journalistic integrity and ethics. However I read that Alan Crosbie, chair of the group which publishes the paper, at a recent conference on media diversity in Dublin, called on the governmant to:
"address the threat to humanity posed by the tsunami of unverifiable data, opinion, libel and vulgar abuse in new media.”
Isn't it ironic.


Sam said...

I have a strong interest in apologies, and the additional hurt that they can cause. A good apology takes responsibility for behaviour that causes hurt, it acknowledges the true nature of the hurtful behaviour, it shows remorse and it pledges some action to repair the hurt.

Stating "I am sorry that you were upset" has the effect of blaming the hurt party for choosing to be upset, passing over responsibility, acknowledgement and reparation. (And God knows that Ireland has seen enough hurtful apologies in recent years).

I feel that this apology is not adequate, and will not be adequate until the editor and author acknowledge why their own behaviour (rather than our upset) was wrong, and pledge some action. I would start by removing the title "Clinical Psychologist" from his future articles and adding a rebuttal to the Examiner archive copy of the article - perhaps written by the Psychological Society of Ireland.

Anonymous said...

Hey Guys, perhaps a glitch, but the Examiner Feelgood archive has just dropped the 3/2/2012 issue from the website at http://www.irishexaminer.com/feelgood/archive/ - what are they going to say?

Sharon McDaid said...

@Sam I quite agree. He has used the passive voice to apologise, distancing himself from responsibility and passing blame to the hurt parties. A real apology uses the active voice "I am sorry I did this" and offers no excuses.

Their response is inadequate. Your suggestions are very good. I will be bringing a complaint to the press ombudsman.

@anon I doubt it's a glitch. They have removed several Feelgood issues from the archives- those that have been linked to and criticised recently.

Lisamaree said...

A few words on a real apology. http://hammie-hammiesays.blogspot.com/2011/05/12-steps-to-being-autism-parent-making.html

Includes chocolate.

Sam said...

Includes chocolate is good - everything tastes better with chocolate, even calories. Another one is http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/apology.htm
At a meeting last night a counselling psychologist said that "for a man who preaches unconditional love and non-judgemental acceptance, he is pretty fucking judgemental" - from a mild-mannered person who I can not imagine swearing.

Anonymous said...

A member of the Cult of Tony (TM) in the Examiner letters this morning, Saturday - http://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/letters/helping-me-find-hope-183473.html

She has a child with Asperger's, and I hope her new religion is not storing up serious problems for the future. I just find the repetition hurtful.

Andrew said...

I am really not sure why this “doctor’s” newspaper article garnered so much attention. I am at loss why a parent would be upset, why a scientist would feel offended, why anybody would pay any attention to the mutterings of an agent provocateur. In the early days of the Internet, especially the professional branch (Usenet), we quickly identified trolls and the purpose of their inflammatory posts: to provoke readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. Those of us who were experienced did NOT engage in flame wars with these cretins; we ignored them. The way to extinguish a malevolent fire is to deprive it of oxygen. In other words, the less we talk about this “psychologist” troll, the less we spread his “fame.” Notice I don’t mention his name. On purpose, I don’t want to add to the search engine hit counts when his name is entered in the query boxes. A troll, by the way, is easily and instantly recognizable because it usually is so absurd that it merits no response. I am a psychologist with two doctorates: one in clinical psychology and one I behavioral neuroscience. I raised a child with Asperger’s (who now is an Honors student at a major university and a delightful person at age 25) and have seen/evaluated/planned help for thousands of children with ASDs. I think that I am not out of line when I say that this pseudo-psychologist from Ireland is either a troll or an idiot. My son, BTW, is a researcher at one of the best known Developmental and Learning Disability centers in the World. His team’s work entails studying ASDs using fMRI analyses. Dr. “H” is a nobody.

Please do us and the World a favor and quit fanning the fires of moronic media sensationalism.

Sharon McDaid said...

@Lisa, you say it perfectly as always x

@Sam ha! Perfect response though.

@Anon2 I read that. It is rather sad.

Sharon McDaid said...

@Andrew. Thank you so much for your comment. It was very kind of you to take the time to come on my blog and explain in such detail, the workings of the internet and the role of trolls. I appreciate also your request that I do you and the world a favour by altering the subjects I choose to blog about. I am always grateful when strange men turn up and tell me what I should do.

In return I would ask that you go away and look up the word "mansplain" I feel you will learn much of benefit.

sharon Morris said...

Hi Andrew, perhaps you'd like to direct your thoughts towards the media outlet who gave Humphreys so much space to air his claims?
Blogs about autism, tend to discuss issues related to autism, and relevant topics such as Humphrey's claims. Stating Mr Humphreys' name explicitly allows people to find our blogs and understand the broader issues we are expressing therein. I'm not sure you understand this aspect of social media very well.

Sharon McDaid said...

@Me thanks for that explanation.
If the commenter had raised his point in a reasonable manner I may have engaged but I can't be bothered with concern trolls. But for anyone else wondering, yes that is why I continue to write and feature Humphreys' name prominently.

Nick McGivney said...

I read the Crosbie comments on the day in question too and had a quiet chuckle. They were in the context of that pesky online journalism crowd robbing stories. 'The fact is that to generate good information carries a cost,' he's quoted as saying. And the fact is that to generate poor information can carry a bigger one: credibility. I know some fine journalists who write in the Examiner, and I shall continue to trust their judgement and skill in unearthing facts that are good to know. But I won't trust their employer's name quite so explicitly, and as for Mr Humphreys, I'm afraid not at all.

DAVID said...


DAVE said...


Sharon McDaid said...

Hello David, less caps lock please, it's the Internet equivalent of shouting.
In what way is it unsafe to express any opinion here?
How am I supposed to "open up the post"?
This space is my blog, where I share my opinions. I permit people to comment in accordance with my commenting policy.

Sharon McDaid said...

No David. Your comments have not been deleted. Perhaps those you submitted before 20.19 have not gone through.

I will however delete any comments you or others leave which I deem to be abusive.