Trivialisation of grief

One of our regular readers Anthony posted a comment in the article about Marcus Paul being sacked from 2SM after he used the death of alleged murder victim Charlise Mutten as a quiz question.

We normally leave comments in the comments section, but Anthony’s analysis is worth wider reading, so we have republished it here.

It is not the first time that a quiz question involved the topic of a tragedy.

In February 2011, 2GB’s Chris Smith asked a participant in his “Smithy’s Quiz” to guess how many drowned asylum seekers were buried.

The controversy raised the ire of the sponsor of the prize giver, Pan Macmillan, and the Refugee Council of Australia spokesperson Sophie Peer said “…the council had never known such an appalling trivialisation of people’s grief…”

In Marcus Paul’s situation, the question was, “The beautiful young girl who was allegedly tragically murdered this week, Charlise Mutten, went to school in which NSW (sic) suburb…”

Despite the inconsistency in keeping or dismissing the presenter as the former in Chris Smith and the latter in Marcus Paul, there is a lesson to not trivialize grief.

The trivialisation of grief means to get into the fine details of a case such as the number of deaths and the suburb.

If running a quiz based on newsworthy items such as the deaths of asylum seekers or the murder of a child or any other kind of tragedy, it is best not to have a question based on a tragedy, especially when the question goes into the fine details of the news.

We all have notice of tragic events in the news when they do occur, such as: the events of September 11, 2001, The Bali Bombings, the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, The Christchurch earthquake, The Granville Train Disaster of 1977 and the Holocaust in Rwanda of 1994, to name a few. It would be tasteless to ask a contestant fine details in a quiz.

If a quiz question is to be based on a tragedy, it should be very broad or be part of an “….on this day….” segment the year after the tragedy with additional commentary. To err on the side of caution, it’s best not to even ask a broad question about a tragedy.



Anthony, who is a regular contributor to our site has made many insightful comments on content and technical issues. He sometimes uses the psedunoym Anthony the Koala, or just Anthony of Belfield. In this case his sign off was ‘Anthony of controversial history repeats itself, Belfield in the land of the Wangal and Darug Peoples of the Eora Nation.’

Anthony and another regular reader St John often discuss transmission technical details in similarly insightful comments, such as the discussion of DAB at the bottom of an article about the BBC.

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