Late Monday night, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg ordered Zuccotti Park to be cleared out, putting a temporary halt to the Occupy Wall Street protests. While many protesters and supporters are justifiably upset at this decision, the curious move was not allowing the media to cover the event.
The first thing the NYPD did was remove journalists from the area. Then they locked down the airspace to prevent news helicopters from flying overhead. If Bloomberg and the NYPD had nothing to hide, then why try to keep the #OWS eviction on the down low?
It does present an interesting case about how the media can cover events when the powers-that-be will not grant access or do not want a news event to be covered. Just look at Syria. Yes, there are plenty of examples this year of citizen journalism truly taking off with smartphone photos and videos being uploaded instantly to YouTube, Twitter and other sharing services.
But the media’s job is to report the news with or without access. So it’s hard to not think about that context while watching video of a remote-controlled helicopter capturing footage of rival protesting groups clashing with police and each other during Independence Day festivities in Warsaw, Poland.
Compare that footage with traditional footage on the ground for an event that left 40 police officers injured, 14 cop cars destroyed, all leading to 210 arrests just four days ago.
Here’s a second helicopter video recording of a police unit hoofing it down a narrow Warsaw street.
It’s practically cinematic! Something like this wouldn’t be difficult to rig up for a news organization. Imagine having this technology to zoom over Zuccotti Park as the NYPD deny access to journalist and larger news helicopters. A tiny remote-controlled vehicle with a camera and transmitter attached to it would have been able to capture some amazing footage that has otherwise been unattainable.
“It reminds me of how the different camera views in the Madden NFL video games inspired the NFL broadcasting networks to invent camera systems to provide similar views,” says Jason Kottke.
He’s totally right. This is what thinking outside the journalism box looks like. These videos inspire what is possible in reporting events where it might be unsafe for journalist or when they are denied access.
There are more nimble and agile ways to do journalism — in every facet — right now than ever before. It’s a shame more news organizations consider setting up a Tumblr as pushing the envelope instead of finding new methods for covering and reporting the news.