A sensational headline, perhaps, but in the face of the third terror event in the UK in a matter of months, consideration should be given to this unfolding reality and hence its wider impact.
This image above taken by documentary photographer Gabrielle Sciotto, speaking on the BBC, may come to be one of the defining images of this latest terrorism act.
The events occurred around London Bridge and Borough Market — popular spots for going out.
Sciotto described how he could observe canisters on one of the the three men closest to him, who’d been shot. He did not think the belt was real, it looked like a toy, though he had no way of verifying this so, as he puts, it he wasn’t scared. He’d been in situations like this before. “I don’t think you realise how scary it can possible be until you put yourself in it”, he said, adding that he could have been shot because of his proximity to events.
Much will be reported about this latest atrocity. Some issues come immediate to mind, the thoughts of those directly affected, obviously. As a journalist there are others. It is customary that senior editors from major media may have been briefed by Scotland Yard.
Back in 1996, during the IRA bombing in Docklands, our head of programmes and editors advised us on various protocols provided by the Metropolitan police on how to report events. Not drawing on conclusions directly from eye witness accounts, until officially corroborated and verified by professional bodies e.g. British Transport police etc., was one of them.
Twenty one years later, the world is a completely different place. Citizen journalism provides images professionals cannot deliver, but the paradox is becoming clear. As everyone is now a potential reporter, the propensity to want to shoot and upload has the potential of jeopardising police work. Footage becomes illustrative of events but also potential evidence.
Equally, the scenario is so far removed from the everyday that people caught up in events may not respond appropriately. Taking photos, or being insouciant, instead of fleeing may be examples. How do you respond to police demands shouting orders at you, if you’ve not experience this before?
It appears surreal, but is deeply serious. Many professional reporters, who’ve worked in conflict zones, develop a realistic respect for danger, assessing situations around muscle memory and conflict reportage training.
There is little public service videos broadcast on television at present that can influence the public consciousness. It’s time broadcast executives committed air time towards advising citizens how to respond in these challenging times.