The Independent’s ‘joke’ headline about the tragic death of a young woman triggers outrage (IMAGE)

Support us and go ad-free


A headline choice at The Independent has left readers outraged, after it appeared to scoff at the death of a young woman.

The story is a human tragedy. A team of experienced climbers attempt to scale Mount Everest, and three of them are killed in the process. 34-year-old Dr Maria Styrdom and her husband Robert Gropel were attempting the Seven Summits challenge. But Dr Strydom was taken down with altitude sickness during the Everest climb, and Mr Gropel suffered a high altitude pulmonary oedema on his way down. While Gropel is making a steady recovery, his wife died. Her death came shortly after that of another climber, a Dutch man named as 35-year-old Eric Arnold. A while later, an Indian climber named Subash Pau made the summit, but collapsed and died of exhaustion shortly thereafter.

The climb had been motivated by the number of bizarre assumptions made about the vegan pair. As Dr Styrdom said in an interview before the challenge:

It seems that people have this warped idea of being malnourished and weak

By climbing the seven summits we want to prove that vegans can do anything and more.

This is a human tragedy: for the deceased, for their loved ones, and for the climbing community too.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

However, The Independent chose to pitch the story on social media with the Facebook headline:

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 11.18.02 AM

The headline in the article itself was marginally better, but still made this tasteless and crass connection, reading:

Woman who died climbing Everest wanted to prove vegans are not ‘weak’

Social media users were quick to condemn the ‘clickbait’ headline as entirely inappropriate for the circumstances.

But of course, not everyone felt that way.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 11.15.51 AM

As an online media outlet, we appreciate the challenge facing editors at The Independent. There’s no argument from us against picking the most engaging headline for your piece – the aim is for as many people as possible to read your story. It’s not just about clicks and ad revenue, it’s about how big our conversation is in the world. Headlines need to be suspenseful, engage people at an emotional level, and be understood by as many and diverse a number of people as possible. That is not easy.

So it’s not a cynical mission to seek to engage a mass audience on the matters that shape our world. In fact, it is how you democratise the news and information.

But let’s not kid ourselves that this was the motivation behind this piece by The Independent. This was not about noble intentions, lessons learned or signposting a critical issue of our time. This story is a tragic accident, no more and no less. The Independent chose to leverage a sneering view of vegans, into clicks. In doing so, it turned that tragic accident into a pun. There is nothing to be proud about in that.

Featured Image via Facebook

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us

Comments are closed