All posts by salemam

Robotic Journalism Idea: Documenting Staten Island’s Ship Graveyard

Through my temporary expert class research, I became somewhat familiar and extremely intrigued by shipwrecks. Other than their historical value, most shipwrecks end up as accidental ecosystems for ocean floor species, including the critically endangered oysters.



One of the obvious things I had to research is whether there exists a publically accessible shipwreck site in NYC. I came across information about a lesser known ship graveyard that exists in Staten Island.

All my research about it indicated that the access to it is quite limited; there is a thicket around it that allows only for spectators to see the ghostly ships from afar. However, there’ have been some extremely great efforts to document the graveyard to amazing results, including haunting photos as part of a photography series by Miru Kim.

I feel that using drones, it would be really interesting to “explore” the ship graveyard, and possibly allow many other interested individuals to experience the eeriness of some of the ships that go back as far as WWII.

Drone Journalism FTW

Is drone journalism for real?

I think that my best shoot at answering this question is finding existing scenarios in which drone-driven journalism worked where the alternative would either be too risky or unviable.

Dangerous phenomena.

Drones were used to photograph 4th of July fireworks in Nashville. While it might be possible to do the same in a helicopter, I believe that the risk of an accident is considerably high (ignition + fuel + human pilot).

Drones are also perfectly able to shoot footage of erupting volcanos from frighteningly close distances, as with the eruption of Mount Yasur on Tanna Island, Vanuatu.

Environmental research.

Efforts to both report about and monitor the environment require an extraordinary reach, from deep jungles to arid deserts. Drones have been used to shoot footage of wild animals in a joint effort between CCTV Africa, and AfricanSkyCam. From looking at the footage, drones are more likely to be less disruptive, less detectable than the typical “safari-like” approaches to wild life journalism. They have, I feel, the potentiality to become a way to gain great insight into other species behavior, especially with the possibility of decreasing their sizes even further.

Missing persons.

While this is hardly a journalism use case, but one can argue that it falls right in the investigative reporting arena. Despite bureaucratic resistance, drones were used for cases of missing persons. They are an ideal tool for that: they are cheap, fast, and commercially available for both journalists and the families of the missing.

Improving journalism practices.

Drones are a wonderful tool to improve the *content* produced through long-standing journalism practices. For instance, a Santa Barbra high school made a point of using a drone in their student-produced journalist content. To me, it makes the whole process much more engaging for them, I feel.

Reporting heavily censored political activism.

It is hardly a surprise at this stage. Drones were used to cover unrest in the US, Thailand, and Scotland to name but a few.