"Today I shot an interview with a family where the mother was murdered 2 days ago. When I arrived and was greeted by the family, I said as I shook their hands, "Sorry for your loss..."I feel ya, Widescreen. Tastefully wrapping up a teary interview with a freshly shell-shocked survivor can be delicate at best. There’s no pat answer I can give you, no adage or catch-phrase that will heal the wounds of a sleepless widow - or even make you feel better about setting up all those lights in her living room. Still, there is a right way and wrong way to conduct this visit and it has to do with just how you’re perceived by the newly bereaved. I’d like to say we all have the grace not to trample on the stricken, but the press in question regularly falls short of this particular glory. To be fair, it is the electronic interloper’s toughest gig: quizzing victims in the throes of torment without venturing into exploitation. I personally have witnessed the cathartic release of a deftly-executed, mournful chat. I’ve also seen photogs upset whole coffee tables in their lunge toward the zoom button, all because a red-faced woman dabbed her eyes for the first time all morning.
If that sounds crass, it is - but a refined sense of decorum is a luxury item not every news-gatherer thinks to pack - when we know we’re making the trip at all. Ask Cameragod:
"What’s worse is when you don’t get a heads up. I got told to meet the reporter at an address. Walked in to find a guy in bed dieing surrounded by his grieving family. They later sent a letter thanking us for a sympathetic and respectful story but commenting how funny my face was when I first arrived as I realized what was going on. They wanted us there to tell their story but if anyone had bothered to warn me I wouldn’t have bounced into the room saying “Hi how’s it going?"OOF. That one hurts. Hopefully, I’ll be spared this particular scenario, as I feel like I’ve checked off most every other item on the Victim Interview checklist, some with pride, others with repugnance. I’ve swarmed wailing farm wives as they thrashed on the banks of a river that swallowed their loved one. I watched time stand still as a slain deputy’s teenage son stared holes through the family’s mobile home dust motes in debilitating disbelief. I chatted quietly with a lovely woman in her yard as she clutched her dead son’s high school graduation portrait, her fingertips a dark purple as they dug into the wooden frame. I’ve buried my eyes in my viewfinder to hide tears as a young wife’s voice breaks when describing her husband, who’d been struck down on the interstate hours before. None of them I’d count as my favorite moments behind the lens, and I’m sure I’ve got a few more in store if I continue to drive around town in a marked news car. I’ll try and keep my humanity stashed in my run-bag, nested in between the spare batteries and back-up microphones. As for interview-ending axioms, I’ll stick with winging it, knowing that, as one young poster points out, zoom lenses and good intentions are rarely enough:
"I feel kinda shi-tay being so fake, but walk in walk out of peoples lives so often ... I guess its part of the job.”I guess...