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Day 13 of the War: Interviewing People Who Lost Their World

(courtesy)
(courtesy)

Today on the radio, I heard a female reporter speaking to one of the survivors of the pogrom on October 7th. She is an 84-year-old widow from Kibbutz Kfar Aza, who stayed alone in a shelter for 30 hours without electricity and water. When she was rescued and brought to safety, it became apparent that two of her daughters had lost their husbands on that tragic Saturday.

It was heartbreaking to listen to the conversation and to learn that, on top of everything, this woman is also a bereaved mother. Especially at a time like this, it is crucial for reporters, on television and radio, to learn how to speak to people who have just lost their world. An interview should not inflict further pain on those who are mourning. Additionally, and this was very evident in the conversation with the survivor from Kfar Aza, it should not focus on the interviewer. In her eagerness, the reporter mentioned that she had visited the survivor at the evacuees’ center, but she was resting. However, these details are irrelevant. Instead, she should have allowed the survivor to share her personal story without interruption. Perhaps the program’s producer could have asked the daughters, or at least one of them, to join their mother.

It appears that this reporter was so anxious about moments of silence in the conversation that she kept talking about irrelevant details from her visit to the evacuees’ center. Conversations with survivors are exceptionally difficult, especially given the enormity of the tragedies and the frequency of such interviews on the media. Asking survivors how they are feeling at the beginning of the interview, for example, is unnecessary. It’s much more appropriate to just offer condolences and sympathy. The reporter concluded the conversation by promising the survivor that she would come to visit. While it is a kind sentiment, such promises should be made privately, not on the air. Even reporters accustomed to the limelight have to understand that at this time, the focus should not be on them: listeners want to hear what the survivors wish to share.

Furthermore, here is an additional suggestion: In these tragic times, radio and television channels should train their reporters in the etiquette and sensitivity of speaking to people who have suddenly, and without any warning, suffered the loss of their loved ones, the destruction of their homes, and the elimination of their community, causing their world to collapse.

About the Author
I hold a PhD in English Literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, specializing in writing about issues related to women, literature, culture, and society. Having lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994), I bring a diverse perspective to my work. As a widow, in March 2016, I initiated a support and growth-oriented Facebook group for widows named "Widows Move On." The group has now grown to over 2000 members, providing a valuable space for mutual support and understanding.
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