The privilege of being allowed into people’s lives

There was a warning about flash photography.

There wasn’t one about the sheer power of the images and words.

I found myself welling up at the footage of the family of PC Dave Philips visiting the scene of his horrific death yesterday.

At times, it felt close to intrusion.

And yet his wife Jennifer, sister Hannah, and other family members had wanted to show the world their feelings: from raw grief through dignified anger to fierce pride.

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I watched PC Philips’ daughters facing the cameras a few hours after trying to explain the rhythm and dynamics of journalism to a drama student.

She is writing a sitcom about a struggling local paper and picked my brains about life at the typeface.

We covered a lot of ground, including the huge role that fun, mischief, banter and gallows humour plays in our offices.

But I also stressed some of the more serious aspects of the job.

I emphasised the privilege of journalism: the ringside seat we are offered at moments of history, the early warning we get of breaking news, the access to the corridors of power – and the way in which we are invited into people’s lives.

We see the best and the worst of humanity every day. Sometimes, as with the case of the death of PC Philips, all in the same story.

I told my student friend that journalists tend to be cynical.

But I also said that the greatest journalists tend to be romantics, too – keen to draw out the best in people where possible.

It sounds like PC Philips was one of the best.

For any journalist covering the tragedy of his death, it will have been a privilege to help his family to ensure that that is how he will be remembered.

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