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Did we show too much?

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James Reynolds | 14:06 UK time, Monday, 26 May 2008

I'm back in Beijing with a bit of time to think back on the earthquake and the way I covered it.

A couple of questions have been going through my mind: Did I show too much/too little? Did I intrude too far into people's grief?

Firstly, it's important to say that we didn't show you on TV the worst of what we saw as we went through Beichuan and other destroyed towns.

I'm not even sure I should share with you now the extent of what we all saw - so I won't.

Hundreds of children were buried when their schools collapsed in HanwangOn TV, we tried to show you the death we came across without horrifying you - and without taking away the dignity of those who died. We tried to show dead bodies only when they were covered under blankets.

There was one exception - we spent a long time considering it. In the town of Hanwang a middle school had collapsed, trapping and killing hundreds of pupils.

Our cameraman filmed a close-up shot of the hand of a girl who had died. The girl was still holding her pen. We thought this made an important editorial point - she and her classmates were killed in the middle of their class. They simply had no time to react to the earthquake.

We decided that this single shot was too graphic to show on the early evening news in the UK when children might be watching - so we left it out.

But we included it in the middle of a piece we filed for the late news - together with a warning. Looking back now, I think this was the right decision.

Moving on - did we intrude too far into people's grief ? I don't think so, and I hope not. We took great care to respect people's feelings as we filmed them - a lot of our shots were taken from a discreet distance, and we never forced our cameras into people's faces.

Equally, we found that many victims wanted to tell us their stories (For five years I covered the aftermath of bombings and shootings in the Middle East and I often found that people needed - and were sometimes desperate for - their stories to be told.)

I hope that we managed to respect people's grief, whilst also conveying the scale of the suffering they were going through. You can't cover an earthquake properly unless you show the effect it has on people's lives.

You may be interested to know that the images we've chosen to show from the earthquake have been less graphic than those broadcast by Chinese state TV.

We're aware that our pictures are being broadcast across the world at different times of day and night - so we want to make sure that they're always as suitable as they can be for those watching.

What do you think?


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