It was Remembrance Sunday in the UK and I was delighted to have found out a parade had been organized not so far away from my location. The turnout in Edgware was impressive and both young and old paid their tribute to the fallen British soldiers in past and current wars.
War veterans, bedecked with medals depicting their heroic deeds, mingled with their contemporaries and shared niceties with the ordinary folks. As the tape rolled, I couldn't help but try to focus the camera on the veterans and the current army recruits, in an attempt to capture the transgenerational display of a patriotic duty.
But after the sombre ceremony, one incident completely disarmed me. I sought to interview a war veteran, who was confined to a wheelchair. On being asked about how he felt about the whole festivity, the very elderly man just burst into tears.
After composing himself, he then explained that whenever he talks about remembrance of soldiers killed in the war front, he becomes too emotional and weighed down by the sense of lost human life. That outpouring of very genuine personal grief made me wonder if, as a journalist, it was in my place to make such an elderly man shed tears.
Of course such images would really make the viewers empathise with the war veterans and solidly connect with the story. But what about the feelings of the old man? Are they supposed to be reduced to just an element of a news item? Is there such a thing as allowing such personal grief to be a private affair, kept away from an intrusive public eye? Couldn't the old man be accorded the right to mourn in dignity, away from a prying camera?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, that could as well signal the beginning of the end of journalistic engagements. However, it would not be too much to ask that, when confronted with such a situation, journalist should be a little bit more sensitive and alive to the existing possibility of aggravating the trauma of their interviewees..