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September 4, 2008

So, how does that make you feel?

"In a tragedy, never ask a victim's family, "How do you feel?" Learn something positive about the victim before you approach family and friends. The family will respect you more if you are able to say up front that you knew the victim was "a history major and a real leader for the field hockey team." (The Student Newspaper Survival Guide, page 34)

Thank you Mike Donoghue. I HATE when I see TV reporters go up to a victim's family and ask this question. Like honestly, what are you expecting them to say? "Oh well, my son just got into a major car accident and might not make it through, but I really would just like to go order a pizza and watch Sports Center, I had a long day at work." Uhhh, yeah I don't think any parent would give a response like that...just guessing though. I think I'd do that just to be a jerk if something bad happened and I was being interviewed. Then I'd give them that, "I think you're stupid," face. Maybe then people would stop asking this question. Maybe.

4 Comments

I agree with you. I think that is the stupidest question for someone to ask. They're mad and devastated, of course! You don't know exactly how the family feels, but you have some idea. I'm pretty sure I'd flip out on someone or punch them if they asked me how I felt after a tragedy just happened to my family. And the reporters wonder why the people they are speaking to get angry? It's because on the insensativity! Seriously, think before you speak.

TV reporters consider it gripping footage when someone breaks down in tears on camera, or otherwise displays strong emotion -- so there are some who will deliberately ask such a strong question because it's guaranteed to get a strong response.

Then they'll even use such a clip as "teaser" to get people to stick around after a commercial break. That's because the visuals are so important to the emotional impact of TV.

A few years ago I remember a Russian TV reporter had camera crews rolling when the reporter told the wife of a soldier that the soldier was dead - but they first did a normal interview with her, getting footage of her talking about how she loved her husband and answering questions about their plans for when he got back home.

Of course, there are many ethical TV reporters who would never stoop to asking such a question, and TV reporting does not *have* to wallow in the miseries of crime victims. (It's just that a mediocre or rushed reporter can get good tape easily by provoking interviewees to emotional displays like this.)

Is it really that stupid? Not that I do not agree with you, but isn't that a reporter's job? Besides, how else would a reporter know how the victim's family feels if they didn't ask questions. Maybe there is a better way to approach situations like so.

I do think that reporters should be more considerate with what they are asking people. However, I also agree that it is their job. They might not even be the person coming up with the questions and it is such a common question to ask.

Maybe they could come up with a better way to find a better way to get around asking the question that nobody wants to hear but I don't think we can say goodbye to the question "how do you feel?" just yet.

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