I was very unhappy to see the start of yet another press conference held with a grieving family on the news this afternoon. I only saw a snippet as I decided I did not feel I wanted to share in their personal grief in such a public and exposing way.
Who is this press conference for. Who gains from this and who loses. Why do we need to see a poor, grieving and vulnerable family expose them to banks of cameras and reporters. Who is responsible for the needs of the family at this time. Who is protecting them whilst they are too grief stricken and shocked to make decisions about their privacy and right to respect for themselves.
I am not talking here about press conferences created when there is a missing person, or police are looking for more evidence to assist their enquiries. I have no problem with that. But in the case of the Rigby family, what is the gain. There is nothing to learn from them, no information to garner, it’s just a media circus and the poor family are the dancing bear.
Somehow, as a culture we have come to expect this. Family’s, survivors, victims are frequently paraded out in front of cameras and consequently across the newspapers the following day. Is it right that we get to share their most intimate of feelings. Do we believe that in doing so, we are showing respect and supporting them to come to terms with their loss. Are we?
I believe we have been fed this by newspapers and news programmes (and sadly the BBC who’ve changed into something akin to a magazine programme). They’ve decide it makes good copy (and for good copy read good revenue). They see their good copy being sucked up by us, and we have come to desire to know all the gory details and to pour over every intimate morsel we are given. We’re not so far removed from the French women who sat at the foot of the guillotine doing their knitting. It’s become rather obscene don’t you think. I don’t want to be part of that, do you?
I think it is time to add another string to the role of the Police Family Liaison Officer (FLO). It’s time that, using their knowledge and training, they make a decision about a press conference in respect of the needs of the family and no one else. If, after weighing up all the information, they believe a press conference is appropriate and needed (by the family) then a period of grace should be applied to allow some time to pass before going ahead. The Rigby family have hardly had time to breathe since they lost their son and husband and this press conference (if it was for them and not the media) was far too soon.
I think the media need also to look at their practices and who knows, maybe it’s the police who encourage this without thought to why or if it is necessary in all cases.