KAYLEEN MORGAN: A letter to my media colleagues on how to treat funerals
Dear media colleagues,
I understand the nature of our jobs but, I think it’s time we take a step back and introspect.
In moments of pain, we need to regain our humanity and think about whether we’d be okay if we had a lens in our faces while our hearts were shattered by losing a loved one.
A moment where I felt we needed to pause the shutters was yesterday with the funeral of Tshegofatso Pule, a 28-year-old who was killed. She was eight months pregnant at the time.
Funerals on a normal occasion are very private moments, held with only those close to you. When a tragedy like this one occurs, we must be careful not to make it a spectacle. It’s real life and real pain that Pule's family are living through, and we are capable of practicing humanity while bringing the news to the nation.
My heart stopped for a few seconds when Pule's casket arrived outside her home and was opened before the service for family and friends to pay their last respects.
But I was taken aback by the number of camera’s that swarmed to peer in, and could not understand the motivation behind capturing her as lifeless. I also do not understand the motivation behind capturing her family wailing with pain during that moment.
The media also took up most of the space in front of her casket, blocking the view from friends and family. This is unusual, considering the courtesy that is often given, not only to families at funerals but any event that is not a media briefing. I have never been to a concert, for instance, where the media stands on the stage, blocking fans' views with the expectation that the crowd present will simply listen in because there are people who need to watch from home.
It is not our place to make the events we are reporting on about us.
We, the media, are not family to the these people, and should practice the same respect that we would expect if we were in that position regardless of how liberal a family was in allowing us the freedom to do our jobs.
Journalism 101 teaches us to paint a picture in our work so that the audiences we relay the news to are able to envision themselves in that very setting, and because of this there should be no reason for us to objectify families - and most commonly black families - when they are grieving. We should afford all families the same respect when we cover their stories, regardless of their race, gender or any other social label.
We must remember that moments like these are not normal, or at least should not be, and by consistently allowing the public into these private moments we are aiding the desensitisation of trauma and have them appear as normal.
We would not do this to each other as the media, and so I’m asking that we go back to what it means to be a journalist, to think about who benefits from publishing grief, and that we remember empathy and respect in moments of pain.
Kayleen Morgan is a multimedia reporter at Eyewitness News. You can follow her on Twitter on @ietskaylo.