On Friday, 16 January, The New York Times published a report detailing Ukrainian rebels’ conflict to seize the Donetsk airport, now a bombed-out shell of its former self. Although the Ukrainian Army says it’s rebuffed the attack, it would have been the rebels’ first major advance in months since the cease fire on Sept. 5.
The NYT story is all fine and good, providing the necessary context and info needed to fill in the gaps and even describes the airport as “a battered and booby-trapped wreck where rebel fighters control the third floor and above.” However, aerial drone footage of the landscape, charred after months of shelling, does way more to convey what’s going on.
Now, it should be said that the above video is not unbiased journalism. The footage was posted on YouTube by a group called Army SOS, a fundraising initiative for the Ukrainian Army, according to Vice News. So, they obviously have their own agenda (like, is that music from Titanic II or something?). But imagine seeing these visuals in your average coverage from CNN, AP, or even The New York Times. And not just for battle zones, but also natural disasters and riots without the need of hulking helicopters putting even more people at risk.
Several media companies, starting with CNN, announced just this week their plans to partner up with the FAA and certain U.S. universities to find ways to safely integrate drones into the newsroom. When I reported on CNN’s announcement on Monday, I joked that we need to brace ourselves for the onslaught of Wolf Blitzer segments. But if it looks anything like this, drone journalism has a place in the newsroom.