Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The ethics of drones discussed at National SPJ convention

Story and photos by Tom McKee, President
Drones are the newest tool being used by many news organizations to enhance their coverage. While the equipment in being updated and improved yearly, the rules of how and when to use them are still being developed.
There are flight operations requirements just issued by the federal aviation administration.

There are legal issues for which case law is still developing and laws that have yet to be written. However, there are ethical guidelines that are already in place from the society of professional journalists.

The dos and don’ts were discussed in great detail during the excellence in journalism convention in New Orleans. The presenter was Andrew Seaman, chair of the SPJ ethics committee, to journalists from around the world.

  • balance the need of the public’s need to know and the public’s right to privacy 
  • use drones to enhance and improve coverage 
  • use drones with a team of people
  • document their use 
  • realize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves
  • avoid pandering
  • realize that some people are uncomfortable with drones
  • have ongoing discussions about the use of drones 
  • take care of the equipment
  • use drones for uncover work
  • use them just because you have them
  • use them in unsafe weather
  • use them to harass or invade privacy
  • interfere with law enforcement or national disaster responses
  • ignore the concerns of readers
  • be stupid
Seaman said a guiding overall principle should be, “If you wound’t do it on the ground, don’t do it in the air.”

"If we’re irresponsible, we lose privileges,” he added. More information is available at www.spj.org.