Like Cronkite said, "You are there"
On storm surveys, getting the public's attention, and why voyeuristic coverage of disaster zones needs a rethinking
The proliferation of high-quality drones and the insatiable demand for new video content have converged in a way that may sometimes encourage people to intrude on lives disrupted by severe storms in ways that weren't possible in the past and aren't really decent now. Drone operators ought to consider the possibility that, if someone's house was damaged by a storm and valuables were subsequently taken from the premises, they might well have a case against anyone who published video of the exposed property (if at an identifiable level) as an aider and abettor to theft.
■ Particularly since it's so easy to reward content creation via "tip jars" and other methods offering ways of covering tracks, the distinct possibility exists that some bad actors are out there already recording the consequences of storm damage in ways that could reveal the existence of valuable property in exchange for payment. Whether it's happening already or not, it isn't hard to imagine.
■ Even conventional, legitimate news coverage of storm damage is offered in uncomfortably high definition, and when conducted from the sky (rather than on the ground, with the express permission of the property owner), it can tread dangerously into the territory that looks like scoping the neighborhood.
■ Something of our better judgment and discretion ought to pull us back from the full scope of the possibilities offered by technology, to say that just because we can show the impact of a disaster in granular detail doesn't mean that it's the right thing to do.
■ It is important to discuss the full range of consequences following a natural disaster, in terms of both life and property. But just as some worthy thought has been put into researching how best to communicate the risk of storms before they arrive (taking into account how the public responds to official messaging), so too should social science be brought to bear on how we communicate the consequences of natural disasters.
■ It's worthwhile to elicit empathy for those affected, and to enlighten the public so that they can appreciate the consequences as conscientious taxpayers and thoughtful voters. But disaster voyeurism purely for its own sake as an instrument of shock isn't good for anyone.
Live aerial shots used to cost so much more