Drone journalism: Sun.Star is in the air

CEBU CITY -- If you talk about the future of journalism, nothing can be more excitingly futuristic than the use of drones in reporting the news.

Drone journalism is what the practice is called, and it is quite new that media organizations are still experimenting with it and practitioners are weighing its pros and cons.

The use of a remote-controlled aerial vehicle, like a quadcopter as what Sun.Star has, equipped with a camera, can help a journalist report information. This practice, first tried out by international media organizations last year, is getting media practitioners excited about its potential but also wary about ethical and legal questions.

A drone can go where journalists cannot and can give a wider view of a disaster area, sports event, or parade. This equipment helps gather information in a way that is humanly impossible unless the journalist charters a helicopter to hover over an area.

Sun.Star started its experiment with drone journalism during the Sinulog 2014 activities in Cebu last January. Aerial photographs of the mass of people at the street and fluvial processions and the grand parade were used together with shots from the ground.

After hundreds of houses were razed in Barangay Lorega, Cebu City, on March 18, the next assignment to pursue the story was to show the morning-after situation and the extent of damage caused by the fire.

This was best captured using the quadcopter armed with a camera.

Photos by Kim Yuhico

Julius G. Neri Jr., Sun.Star Publishing Inc. president, said: “Using drones to gather news allows us (Sun.Star) to view things from a different perspective and allows us access to information which, in the past, would have been too expensive or too dangerous.” Neri, himself a quadcopter aficionado, introduced the idea last year of Sun.Star using an aerial vehicle for news gathering.

Indeed, drone journalism gives media organizations the chance to expand reporting beyond printed text and still photos. An aerial photograph of the Lorega disaster area taken by the Sun.Star quadcopter showed the rows of debris of what used to be houses.

As reader Aimee Luab-Abaricia said in a Facebook post below the photo, “I am glad that Sun.Star Cebu consistently uses technology to provide and present information in a way that is relevant and real to the readers. This picture does more than words in this case.”

In January this year, Sun.Star also got several “thank you” messages after it used a quadcopter to capture the Sinulog scene. Some, who posted their comments on Facebook, requested for more aerial photos.

“Please share more video. Sun.Star, thank you. We can see through our FB. Pit Senyor, Sun.Star,” said Mercedes Felipe Mangubat, an overseas Filipino worker in Hong Kong.

Roger Terz Caparoso said: “Thank you for sharing those lovely pics! Well done.”

Questions of safety, of the copter failing and falling on people, and privacy, and the country’s aviation rules are the other issues in the practice of drone journalism. (Sunnex)


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