iPhones, Flipcams & Satellite modems are tools for news gathering as violence escalates against journalists in the Middle East

Posted by suzanne.kai

As violence is escalating against journalists working in war-torn countries, low profile or nearly invisible still and video cameras, and content capture and distribution technologies are becoming necessary survival gear.

  The Comm200x120-masthead_thuraya ipittee to Protect Journalists has reported an unprecedented number of casualties: eleven journalists have been killed this year worldwide, eight of the eleven in the Middle East, one in Vietnam, one in the Philippines, and one in Mexico. CPF reports that there have been more than 300 attacks on journalists covering the recent political unrest in the Middle East.

CNN's Anderson Cooper and his camera crew were attacked by pro-government supporters on February 2, 2011 in Cairo while covering the Egyptian conflict. A video shot by Cooper for CNN's AC360 can be seen on this link. Cooper was able to keep his small Flip video camera recording, as he was escaping from his attackers. While Cooper was able to broadcast his reports and fly back to New York, many other journalists have not been as lucky. Some have been jailed, brutally beaten, stabbed or shot, their equipment destroyed, or worse - killed.

The large, conspicuous shoulder mounted video cameras have quickly been replaced by low profile gear such as the miniature Flip video cameras. Laptops are being replaced in the field by iPhones and other cell phones which can transmit still images, audio and video, and update blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Al Jazeera online producer Bilal Randeree tells Robert Hernandez of OJR: The Online Journalism Review, in addition to Flip video cameras, a live blog, and cell phones for tweeting such as iPhones and Blackberries, the equipment is set up with various apps to capture and distribute images and video including Audiioboos and Twitpics to transmit audio and images, and for areas with blocked, or no Internet, Thuraya IP satellite modems.

With the escalating violence against journalists in areas of conflict around the world, broadcast organizations are seeking out the latest, low profile gear and new technology to help protect their news gathering crews from catching the attention of hostile mobs and militia.

In today's times of political unrest, it's no longer an option for news crews to be less conspicuous in the field, it is an urgent need for their survival.

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Bringing Back a Flood of Memories

As a former KRON-TV (NBC) news reporter in San Francisco, I remember this like it was just yesterday - The tragic trip of Congressman Leo Ryan and a delegation to Jonestown, a compound developed by radical church cult leader Jim Jones in Georgetown, Guyana. My colleagues had been assigned to cover the Congressman's tour to assess the cult leader's community amidst concerns from family members worried that their relatives were being brainwashed by the cult leader. To our shock, NBC cameraman Bob Brown, photographer Greg Robinson, NBC reporter Don Harris, People's Temple defector Patricia Parks, and Congressman Leo Ryan where gunned down and killed by Jones' guards. When Jones learned of the killings, he initiated the mass suicide of his followers, and took his own life. The Jonestown tragedy claimed a total of 918 people, including the lives of our fellow journalists. Bob Brown had been filming and captured on film the shooting that would kill him. HIs footage would play over and over, around the world. Bob, a kind and very talented cameraman, and his NBC crew members frequently often shared our newsroom in San Francisco.

As my colleagues today call or text me as they are boarding their planes to cover Japan's nuclear reactor disaster, or headed to the Middle East, I don't just wish them good luck, I pray for their safe return.

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Later this week from April 9-14, 2011, I will be among the more than 90,000 media and entertainment professionals and 1,500 exhibitors expected to attend the annual NAB Show in Las Vegas where the latest advances in technology and product are announced.

About the NAB Show 

From April 9 - 14, 2011,  more than 90,000 media and entertainment professionals, with nearly one-third of the attendees coming from more than 150 countries outside the U.S. are convening in Las Vegas for the annual NAB Show. The NAB Show has traditionally been the starting point of the year for many buyers and decision-makers from television, radio, online and other media outlets to learn about the latest technology and product releases from companies. The show, with 9 conferences, educational programs, and 1,500 exhibitors has evolved to become a universe of all things related to media and content creation, including the equipment and software used for the distribution and delivery of audio, video and filmed content for any device, including television, computers, movie screens, internet, cell phones, satellite, and much more.


Resources:

The Committee to Protect Journalists

Video shot by CNN's Anderson Cooper for CNN's AC360 while he and his crew were attacked in Cairo, Egypt February 2, 2011.

Hostile Environment Training 101 By Vincent Laforet

ABC World News with Diane Sawyer - A compilation up to February 3, 2011 of journalists attacked, detained or threateded while reporting in Egypt.

Columbia School of Journalism Briefing of Alumni Journalists currently working in the Middle East

 

About the Author:

Suzanne Kai is the founder of StudioLA.TV, and a board member of the Asian American Journalists Association, Los Angeles Chapter.

Ms. Kai is a writer/producer of news and features distributed to mainstream and ethnic news outlets. She co-founded AsianConnections.com in 1998. AC is a member of New America Media, which is a collaborative consortium of more than 2,000 ethnic news organizations reaching more than 50 million people.

Ms. Kai a former video features producer for SPRINT and Amp'd Mobile, and a broadcast news journalist for KRON-TV, KTVU-TV, KCBS Newsradio SF, and other outlets. She earned a Masters degree in Communication (Film/Television) from Stanford. She is a member of the Interactive Media Peer Group of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Hollywood. She is in development on a new documentary "Becoming Almost Famous - The Life & Times of Ben Fong-Torres."