More thrills than skills – A half-life in journalism, part 81

Over the next few weeks, is to publish, each weekday, edited extracts from the memoirs of Scottish war correspondent, Paul Harris. ‘More thrills than skills: A half-life in journalism’, is being scheduled for publication next year.

WAR is a fairly random affair. Life is preserved or death arrives on an entirely indiscriminate basis.

It was difficult for any reflective journalist in the Bosnian war. So much to see, to do, to experience, to digest and to reconcile. For most of us, I suspect that the only way to handle this was, contrary to Martin Bell’s thesis, by adopting the journalism of detachment.

Most often, we focused firmly on the story and actually tried not to be too distracted by the horror, by revulsion or, simply, by thinking too deeply about things.

I know that most war photographers concentrate on looking through the viewfinder. That’s not altogether a technical requirement, but it does serve to suspend the reality of horror. Sometimes, the strategy did not work: the very power of what was going on before your eyes took over.