Drone Journalism After A Disaster

Originally published at Drone Book
By K. Daniel Glover

When disaster strikes these days, it doesn’t take long for drone pilots to document the damage from the air – and for people to start talking about the imagery.

The reactions tend to fall into one of two camps. Those who appreciate the aerial perspectives of nature’s fury celebrate the technology that delivers it. But more cynical viewers (usually other drone pilots) see the footage as evidence of bad behavior.

The pessimists have a point. Drone operations are heavily restricted in disaster zones because of the prevalence of emergency responders flying manned aircraft at low altitudes, and some drone pilots do break the rules. Just this week police arrested a California man for flying his drone near an airport frequented by aircraft fighting wildfires in the state.

But people shouldn’t rush to the judgment that every aerial disaster photo or video was obtained illegally. That attitude undermines the quality visual journalism being produced by conscientious drone pilots, like Josh Haner for The New York Times.

Haner, who last year used his drone skills to help illustrate the “Carbon’s Casualties” series on climate change, was in Santa Rosa, Calif., last week to film the aftermath of deadly wildfires. His footage brings the fire’s impact to life from the sky – and it was all shot legally.

“Exercising the most caution around breaking news is something I’m very passionate about,” Haner told Drone Book. “I think as a journalistic community we need to think about when we fly and make ethical decisions that err on the side of caution.”

Haner shot the footage in two locations outside the range of temporary flight restrictions imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration, a fact that he confirmed beforehand by calling 1-800-WXBrief. He also showed his remote pilot’s certificate to police at the nearest road block, and they told him where he could fly without being over an active fire.

No flight restrictions were implemented in the area of the footage for about 24 hours after the fire started, but Haner and his editors decided against flying over active fires.

“Just because we can fly in areas before TFRs go into effect doesn’t mean we should,” he said. “In this situation we postponed our flights until we felt comfortable there were no fire or rescue flights in the area even though there were no TFRs in effect for a very long time.”

The first TFR took effect as Haner transmitted his footage to the newspaper. “I was glad that I’d already finished as I don’t like going anywhere near TFRs,” he said. “It’s just not worth it.”

Another video in Santa Rosa shot by drone pilot Douglas Thron gained traction online. It featured a U.S. Postal Service truck driving through a neighborhood destroyed by fire.

“It was a trippy thing — he was actually delivering the mail,” said Thron, who was on assignment for NBC’s “Today.” “I was shocked to see him because most of the roads were blocked off, but he obviously had access.”

Thron appears to have flown his drone before a TFR was implemented for the area.

The Los Angeles Times also published aerial imagery of the wildfire’s damage, and its approach to getting the story is worth noting. “No drone was used,” Marcus Yam said in an email. “I flew in a helicopter for those aerial surveys.”

The point is that it’s possible for journalists to obey the law and capture newsworthy aerial footage in disaster areas. Dozens of journalists are, like Haner, certified to fly drones themselves; news outlets can contract the work to highly experienced drone pilots like Thron; or they can go the old-fashioned but costlier route of hiring helicopter pilots.

So the next time you see powerful aerial footage of a disaster scene, resist the urge to jump to any unwarranted conclusions about how it was obtained. Just appreciate the moment.

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Blazing An Aerial Imagery Trail

Originally published at Drone Book
By K. Daniel Glover

Photo: Fireground Images

Keith Muratori has made a career out of fighting fires – and photographing them. Now he is taking his joint passions for extinguishing and chronicling flames to the air.

When he’s not on duty, Muratori listens to an old-fashioned scanner and monitors modern tools like Twitter, fire-paging text services and fire photographer groups on the walkie-talkie app Zello to identify blazes. Then he records the tragic moments with either the camera around his neck or the drone in the air above them.

“The action, operations and vivid colors captured in firefighting imagery are amazing,” said Muratori, a veteran of the Bridgeport Fire Department in Connecticut. “It’s also about capturing the history of the fire service or a fire department, as well as the opportunity for firefighters to learn from this imagery.”

A native of Shelton, Conn., Muratori earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology but developed an interest in firefighting while working on a wellness program for the department that he now calls home. His wife’s admiration for her grandfather, a retired Bridgeport firefighter, also inspired Muratori to make a career change. He initially worked as a volunteer firefighter in Shelton and has been on the paid force in Bridgeport for 17 years.

Muratori’s passion for photography took root at an earlier age, and he naturally gravitated toward documenting fires on film. Fire photographers like John Cetrino and Bill Noonan in Boston and Bob Pressler in the Bronx served as role models. Muratori is one of two official photographers for the Bridgeport department.

 

Watching fires develop while he was behind the lens gave Muratori a new perspective on their behavior, and fighting them inside gave him insights into how to photograph them. “Fire photography became a perfect fit both as a hobby and profession,” he said. “Photographing fires was making me a better fireman, and firefighting made me a better fire photographer.”

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The Myth Of The Impala Mama

Originally published at Medium
By K. Daniel Glover

Finnish photographer Alison Buttigieg loves cats. The Internet loves cats. But these days Buttigieg hates the Internet because it’s lying about one of her cat photos.

It all started Feb. 11. Someone who knows her work as a wildlife photographer recognized a cheetah picture of hers online. That wasn’t necessarily a surprise — Buttigieg published the “remarkable” photo on her blog, Facebook and Instagram last November after it won an international award. But the flood of messages that started pouring in from strangers that day stunned her.

Titled “The Stranglehold,” this award-winning photo by Alison Buttigieg spawned a feel-good but phony Internet meme about a self-sacrificial impala. (Reprinted with permission)

An intellectual property thief had stolen her photo, invented a feel-good back-story for it, and engineered a viral sensation — one that wasn’t exactly flattering to Buttigieg. The tall tale portrayed the three cheetahs in the photo as heartless killers, their impala prey as a self-sacrificial mother and Buttigieg as a fragile soul who sank into depression after documenting a feline feast.

“In the beginning I thought it was absolutely hilarious, even the trolling,” she told me in an email interview six days after the hoax spread. “But then it was suddenly really overwhelming when I realized there wasn’t much I could do.”

A passion for wild animals and wild places
Buttigieg is an information technology consultant whose passion for animals and for wild places inspired a foray into photography. She has carried a camera on wildlife journeys around the world for 13 years and started taking the photographic aspect of her observations more seriously about four years ago.

“I see my photos as a means to spread awareness about wildlife and the need to protect them and their habitat,” she said.

Buttigieg has shot pictures on three continents — Africa, Asia and South America. Her favorite places include Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in Botswana and South Africa, and the Massai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya. In September 2013, she was near the latter location, at the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, when she saw a family of cheetahs trap a lone impala.

Cats of all kinds fascinate Buttigieg because of their beauty and expressive faces. Cheetahs stand out in the felidae species for their speed, quirks and sounds. The guides at the conservancy knew she loved cheetahs, and a mother and two adolescents were near the camp during her visit.

This is how the scene unfolded as soon as her party spotted the family:

The mother cheetah spotted the impala from a distance and practically walked straight up to it. The impala didn’t even try to run away, and it did not put up a fight. Impalas are social creatures, and this one was completely alone, so I suspect it was already sick or somewhat injured.

The mother cheetah held the poor impala by the neck to let her youngsters practice their hunting skills. The impala went into shock and stood motionless like a statue while the young cheetahs proceeded to play with it. They seemed to be quite clueless as to what their mother wanted them to do. After a few minutes the mother cheetah put the impala out of its misery, and all the family enjoyed a good meal.

This kind of training exercise is actually quite common, although usually the mother teaches the youngsters by bringing live antelope fawns for them, not adults. It is crucial for the young cats to hone their skills.

Read the rest of the article at Medium.

The Elements Of Social Media Style

Nearly a century ago, William Strunk Jr. penned a treatise on writing that has defined the craft for generations. As recently as 2011, Time magazine ranked the revised and expanded version of “The Elements of Style,” co-authored by E.B. White, among the 100 best and most influential nonfiction books.

But in the past decade, the expectations of readers have changed as technology has advanced. The art of writing has evolved to fulfill their expectations. To excel in this online era, communicators must learn to write for the platforms that readers use today. They must practice “The Elements of Social Media Style.”

ElementsOfSocialMediaStyle
Through my company Tabula Rasa Media, I explored this intersection between traditional and modern communications in a presentation to a global communications consultancy in Washington, D.C. A mix of lectures and interactive exercises, the class covered three broad aspects of writing — composition, creativity and courtesy (online etiquette).

Participants learned how to turn existing content into fresh online material, how to cater their writing toward different social media platforms, and how to coordinate content across those platforms. They also discussed real examples of social media successes and flops that illustrated both effective and flawed writing.

TRM offers this training to corporations, trade associations, nonprofit groups and other organizations. If you are interested, please email me at tabrasamedia@gmail.com.

Judging Social: Modern Media In Court

Reprinted from Justice 2.0, a blog about social media in the courts
By K. Daniel Glover

The man who represents himself in court may well have a fool for a client, but the Indiana Supreme Court is doing its part to make sure that man is a little less foolish.

Over the past few years, the court has been producing Internet videos aimed at educating people who choose to represent themselves. The series includes introductory lessons, specific tips for various stages of the legal process and topical videos on subjects like children and divorce. Some of the clips have more than 10,000 views each.

Online videos like those on the Indiana high court’s YouTube channel are just one technique that courts — and some judges — are using to expand their communications horizons. As more people go to social media for information, the judicial branch is getting social to reach them.

“There’s widespread interest in the topic in the court community,” said Chris Davey, the public information director for Ohio’s Supreme Court. He has been spearheading research of social media in the courts for the Conference of Court Public Information Officers. “Almost every day there are courts that are starting to use some form of social media.”

Even the International Criminal Court has a Twitter account and YouTube channel.

The 21st-century court reporter
The Indiana Supreme Court is one of several U.S. courts on Twitter, a move that PIO Kathryn Dolan credits to changing media realities — and to her boss Chief Justice Randall Shepherd, whom she calls “a newspaperman at heart.”

“What we’re seeing nationally and globally is obviously a shift in how people consume news,” Dolan said. “They decide what they want to hear and learn about and go directly to the source in many cases. And we felt that it was important to provide that information and that means for them to gather that information directly from us.”
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Trial By Twitter: Real-time Court Coverage

Reprinted from Justice 2.0, a blog about social media in the courts
By K. Daniel Glover

Helen Ubinas was a lone voice tweeting in a media wilderness in January 2010. The Harford Courant columnist was the only journalist reporting in real time via Twitter during jury selection of a high-profile murder trial — an experiment she began by happenstance when the reactions of potential jurors intrigued her.

“Mostly I thought I was ‘talking’ to myself, just jotting down impressions of the young woman who broke down crying when she saw Hayes, the high-stakes lawyering taking place, etc.,” Ubinas said in an email interview. “But suddenly people started to follow me — and they began sending messages. I realized quickly that people were very interested in the case, in the judicial system. They wanted every single detail.”

By the time the jury found Steven Hayes guilty of killing three people in Cheshire, Conn., Ubinas was one of a half-dozen reporters covering the case live in news blurbs and sound bites of 140 characters or less. Their work amassed such a following that Hayes’ defense team blamed Twitter for creating a “circus atmosphere,” and the second defendant in the murder case, Joshua Komisarjevsky, later tried to keep tweeters out of the courtroom.

The reporter’s notebook online
The Cheshire murder trials highlight the increasing significance of Twitter both as a news tool in general and as a great gadget for covering trials in particular. Journalists can report dramatic testimony, legal maneuverings and more as soon as they happen, and they can do it in more detail than traditional media allow.

High-profile trials such as the Cheshire case and the federal corruption trial of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, D-Ill., attract the most attention. But some local court reporters have made Twitter part of their daily routines.

The value of live-tweeting trials quickly becomes apparent to journalists who try it. They hear from crime-news junkies, lawyers involved in trials and especially family members of crime victims. “Family members who could not be in court thanked me for making it possible for them to ‘be there,'” Ubinas said of both the Hayes trial and another one she tweeted more recently.
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Your Guide To Pet Names For Politicos

Originally published at Beltway Blogroll

Children learn at a young age that if you really want to get under someone’s skin, make fun of their name. Bloggers have taken that skill to new heights in adulthood, as they try to score points against their political enemies by giving them memorable and sometimes mean-spirited nicknames.

Below are some of the ones I’ve taken note of since I started tracking blogs. I’m sure there are many more, so if you have a blog name for your least favorite politician, bureaucrat or media personality and want to expand the list, add your voice in the comments.

— Sen. Felix Macaca: Former Sen. George Allen, R-Va.
Sen. Smirk: Joseph Biden, D-Del.
Sen. Switchback: Sam Brownback, R-Kan.
Gov. Privatize: Mitch Daniels, R-Ind.

Tax Hike Mike: GOP presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (also called “The Huckster“)
Harry Potter: FCC Chairman Kevin Martin
Multiple Choice Mitt: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney

Senator Pants On Fire: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Both Ways Shays: Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn.
Pete StarkRavingMad: Rep. Fortney (Pete) Stark, D-Calif.

Pentagon Takes Fire Over Blog Briefings

Originally published at Beltway Blogroll

Last fall, the liberal blog Think Progress took the Pentagon to task for giving only Defense Department-friendly bloggers access to regular blog briefings. The Pentagon responded by agreeing to let Think Progress, and presumably other bloggers likely to be critical of defense policies, to future roundtables.

Al Kamen of The Washington Post apparently doesn’t read Think Progress, though, because today he ridiculed the Pentagon’s new media chief for how the blog briefings are organized. Rob Bluey of the Heritage Foundation didn’t take Kamen’s outburst lightly.

Kamen suggests that the Pentagon is limiting these calls to the “right bloggers.” That’s absolutely untrue. When I saw Holt speak at Blog World in Las Vegas last year, he made a point of stating that he reached out to bloggers of all political persuasions as well as those who cover military issues exclusively. Anyone is welcome to take part on the calls, but liberal bloggers have never expressed any interest. (And why would they when it’s so easy pontificate rather than report what’s actually happening.)In my opinion, Kamen’s piece is yet another example of an elite, mainstream journalist expressing jealously about the emerging role of bloggers in the information age. His cushy job at the Post could soon be at risk with the more Americans turning to blogs for their news and information rather than page A17 of the newspaper.

Netroots, DCCC Find Common Ground

Originally published at Beltway Blogroll

When Democratic bloggers first came on the political scene, they clashed with the party establishment’s fundraising apparatus in Washington. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in particular was a frequent target of netroots scorn.

Not this year. The DCCC has paired with the netroots fundraising vehicle ActBlue in a new campaign dubbed “Red To Blue” in order to raise cash for candidates fighting in some of the country’s toughest Republican strongholds.

Here are the details from an e-mail I received from ActBlue last week:

Not only is ActBlue partnering with the DCCC at this stage of the effort, ActBlue played a critical role in drawing the DCCC’s attention to the profiled candidates.Of the first group of “Red to Blue” candidates, eight have used ActBlue to build a community of supporters and raise critical early funds, and the remaining two, as yet unnamed nominees in Illinois and Louisiana, are being supported by ActBlue’s pioneering “Democratic Nominee Funds.”

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‘Beatblogging’ On Technology Issues

Originally published at Tech Daily Dose

Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University, has brainstormed a trio of journalistic innovations into the existence the past year. The new project, Beatblogging.org, went online yesterday, and elements of it will appeal to the technology crowd.

The concept behind Beatblogging is to connect beat reporters with social networks of experts in specific topics who can help them do their jobs better. To test the theory, Rosen recruited about a dozen beat reporters from newsrooms across the country whose editors are on board with the idea.

As it turns out, six of the participating beat reporters will be focused on science and technology topics. The reporters and their topics are:

  • Eric Berger of the Houston Chronicle, science
  • Eliot Van Buskirk of Wired.com, digital music
  • Michelle Davis of Education Week’s Digital Directions, technology in the K-12 classroom
  • Brier Dudley of The Seattle Times, Northwest technology companies, like Microsoft and RealNetworks.
  • Matt Nauman of The Mercury News, energy and “green” technology
  • And Stephen Totilo of MTV News, videogames and their makers

You can get more details on each of those projects at Rosen’s PressThink blog and follow their coverage over the next year at the Beatblogging site.