Most television journalists, if they came to it via newspapers, retain a soft spot for print. It’s a purer medium, in that no part of the story is harder to tell than another. With telly, if the pictures aren’t there to illustrate a point, then it is either not made, or arrived at by a device that requires no image other than that of the reporter.
Technical stuff: but the effect might be to blind television journalists to what they see when the camera isn’t rolling. If no image is recorded of something, well, it ‘‘didn’t happen’’.
Such abstractions came to me on election night. I was at Jeremy Corbyn’s count in Islington. Surprise and joy for Corbynistas, most of it recorded for posterity. But one moment wasn’t, and I retain the imprint of it more clearly than scenes far more – dread word – iconic.
It was about 3.30 in the morning. I had satisfied my boss by lobbing a question at a beaming Jezza. The sports hall where the count happened was closing down, furlongs of broadcast cable were being wound up, satellite trucks disappearing into the just-lightening night sky. I had left too, awaiting my producer and a lift to the hotel. I stood, tired, mute, propping myself up against an outer wall in the darkness.
Then I caught sight of Seumas Milne, Corbyn’s arch-strategist, walking towards me, lost in thought. There was nobody else around and Milne hadn’t seen me accidentally lurking in the shadows. He didn’t say anything. There was no spontaneous fist-pump. But the look: an arching smile of triumph and vindication set in a face – ordinarily – of the most studied inscrutability. A mien practised in dissembling, finally enjoying one giant psychic exhalation. It was a moment so unguarded I almost felt the need to look away.
A moment that can be hinted at in print, but impossible to convey electronically.
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