DEAR MISS MANNERS: When an eyewitness is interviewed on television or radio news accounts, invariably the news anchor will finish the conversation with a "Thank you."
I realize that the appropriate response should be "You're welcome," but when the story is tragic in nature, that seem inappropriate somehow, almost undercutting the seriousness of the situation.
Usually the witness (or field reporter) mumbles something inarticulate or simply nods his head. In other languages, saying "At your service" works well, but in English it comes off as far too formal. A few try "Of course," but that seems almost rude.
Is there some better way of responding, something that doesn't jar, that recognizes the anchor's thanks without trivializing the incident?
GENTLE READER: Even so-called guests on the air --experts there to give their analyses or opinions -- find this awkward, because one wants to give the usual response to "Thank you." Yet their "Thank you for having me" wouldn't do at all under the circumstances you describe.
Witnesses to tragedy are more like temporary news correspondents, although they could hardly adopt the response of "Now back to you." They can be said to be doing their duty to report what they know, and Miss Manners sees nothing rude about their responding with "Of course" or "Certainly," or even a simple serious nod.