News Chopper Collision Stirs Media Ethics Debate

In In The News on July 28, 2007 by Petr Bokuvka

Two news choppers collide in downtown Phoenix, Arizona whilie filming a high-speed police chase. At this point, at 1:15 p.m. CET three fatalities have been confirmed.

Immediately after the crash many news chopper pilots were quoted as saying the same thing: I told you so. We have been telling you so. In other words, this sort of news coverage was an accident waiting to happen.

As a journalist, I must say I totally agree. It is one of the most dangerous and risky things journalists can do: to use things for slightly different purposes than those for which that particular thing was invented. This applies to choppers as well as let’s say hidden cameras. Ever since helicopter was introduced as transportation vehicle for news teams, it has been used as a watch-live tool. Car chases will glue people to TV sets even though it is just a one-minute footage in a two-minute news piece in a thirty-minute evening news broadcast after which an average viewer will say to themselves: Okay, now I know what is going on in the world.

If you remember how the white Bronco chase with O.J. Simpson inside was covered you must be surprised that news choppers did not collide back then as they were trying to get as close as possible.

ABC Channel 15 coverage
KTVK Channel 3 coverage
CNN coverage
P.M. UPDATE: Phoenix police chief said in a press statement that one of the charges the car driver might face is linked to the chopper accident. That can’t be true!!! If this was the possibility then George W. Bush would have to be put in jail for manslaughter of all journalists who have so far been killed in Iraq. The journalists who were killed were at work.

Czech TV stations in the Czech Republic do not have their own choppers. Instead, they have agreements with private small-plane owners or ultra-light pilots’ clubs and if something happens and it is necessary to show it from the air, they take off. The most frequent air coverage in the Czech Republic includes highway traffic jams, floods or forest fires.

High-speed chases in the Czech Republic don’t last long enough for news team to find out about it, gather all the gadgets, take off and get to the place where it, well, takes place. In Czech TV stations’ news broadcasts all you see is the result. A car in a pole. A victim in a bag.


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