Saturday, 30 November 2013

TV News Cameraman And A Fistful Of Nothing.

The business of TV news often means covering stories involving the misery of others. There is no sugar coating it, wrapping it in cotton wool or the touch of a velvet glove.

Take a deep breath... and knock.

Often, this means as a TV news cameraman I, along with a reporter, have to approach relatives, friends or colleagues in the aftermath of something awful in their lives or drag up memories they wish they could forget, and ask them a straight question at one of the most difficult times of their lives.

"Hello. We are the press. Would you like to invite us into your life and home and tell us about your dead wife..? Just between you, me and around half a million viewers..?"

OK... So we don't exactly put it that way. Tact, discretion and understanding are warranted in a situation like this, but it sure as hell feels like it when you are stood on a man's door step unannounced, asking him in a slightly kinder manner, to do just that. That's what I did yesterday.

I was grateful to him that we were indeed invited into his home, given a hot drink and spoken to with a respect for our jobs as journalists that in this day and age can be a limited experience, given what we had just asked of him. A quick "No..!" and a slammed door in the face is as likely to happen than a warm invite with tea and biscuits.

We talked for a good few hours. He knew what we wanted as journalists, the human angle to a difficult story involving the sad death of his wife of many, many years. Space to fill on the airwaves as a slot between crime and the football. He was no fool.

In the end though, with the kindness and grace of a gentleman still in mourning and wondering where to go next in his life, he declined the offer of tea time exposure on the nightly news. He even thanked us for coming to see him and with a genuinely warm handshake, we took our leave and left him to the rest of his life. I genuinely hope that we didn't upset him too much in the pursuit of our work, but i guess we left a little upset behind as much as we try and avoid it. There is after all, only one way to ask.

Sometimes, a heartbreaking story is to be told. And sometimes, it's just between them and us over a cup of tea. We got the whole story, we just couldn't tell it properly without him. Either way, as journalists, we don't always get what we want in the rush to deadline, but i was grateful for the tea and warm welcome.

Paul Martin is @ukcameraman on Twitter.