The recent tragedy that struck Alvechurch Middle School attracted much media attention. I am an ITV news cameraman and reporter who has lived in the village for many years and was disappointed to hear of some complaints on Facebook recently complaining of the ‘intrusion’ of the media at both the school and St Laurence’s Church.
I feel compelled to respond to such criticisms and dispel some myths that some may hold about the reporters and camera crews who were present on that sad day.
As with all incidents of this nature, when word first reaches home of an accident abroad, information can be very sketchy. Facts can become quickly distorted as telephone calls are made amongst family and close friends, and information can quickly become misconstrued in a series of Chinese whispers.
The police and Foreign Office will release information as they get it but for the many people who cannot gather outside the school, the first way they can be kept informed with accurate information is to watch the local news.
So, imagine if you will, that nothing at all was reported. Imagine turning on the local news and finding not a word said about the incident. Imagine opening the local papers on Monday morning to discover no articles whatsoever concerning the death of a much loved and respected teacher.
I’m certain that you would find such a situation abhorrent and would be asking why the media didn’t deem the story newsworthy.
For the media to get accurate and reliable information means asking questions. While this might seem to some as showing a lack of respect, it’s a fact that many people can find it very comforting to pay tributes on camera. No one gets forced to do this, if they would prefer not to talk we will always leave them in peace.
My Facebook friend was also quick to criticise the presence of cameras at St Laurence church but they were invited there to allow the Rector to pay tribute to the deceased in public and also to illustrate how at moments like this, the church can become a centre of spiritual care and comfort to the community.
The media in general work to very tight deadlines. As journalists, we would love to be able to alter the times that our news bulletins were broadcast but the schedules are strictly controlled and so while it may seem we’re always rushing and distant from any concern, it doesn’t follow that we’re not personally distressed by bad news.
I can tell everyone that there wasn’t a single member of the media present at the school who wasn’t deeply affected by the events and I personally believe that it was absolutely right that the cameras were present on that awful day.
I think it’s worth pointing out that after a quick look at the Facebook page on which the criticisms were published, its author had also posted articles she liked from The Daily Mail and OK magazine, had sung the praises of a local radio station’s charity work and passed comment based on news reports of the Birmingham riots.
To her I would say, “you can’t have it both ways”. No one likes the media when they’re on your own doorstep but I can guarantee that these same people will continue to have an appetite for watching news bulletins about events elsewhere and they would be the first to complain if we didn’t report them.
My thoughts go out to all those affected by the coach crash especially to the family and friends of Peter Rippington and all the children who were injured. I hope that they found the news reports accurate and sensitively handled, it is always our intention to try to do so.
The camera crews and reporters have now moved on to cover new stories some of which, unfortunately, will be bad news. You’ll read about them in the papers you choose to buy and the news broadcasts you choose to watch on TV at home.
As you do, please understand how our involvement is necessary to ensure you get the best possible news service that we all demand.
News Cameraman, Alvechurch