How Satellites Could Revolutionise Journalism

Here’s an interesting article by Fergus Pitt on Slate magazine about the way satellite technology is changing the face of storytelling.

The article focuses on the proliferation of satellite imagery available through private companies like Planet Labs in America, who operate a growing network of satellites. Pitt uses the ProPublica Losing Ground project to illustrate the new journalism which is made possible through the distant viewpoint of space. >Traditional editors and journalism professors say that stories need characters and anecdotes; they’re the color that attracts readers and evokes a passionate response. But some stories spread over decades and miles—individuals and anecdotes alone can’t show that. Al Shaw, from ProPublica’s data team, had read that the Louisiana coast loses a football field’s worth of land every hour. “I wanted people to see the maps and the scope of the problems,” he said.

Satellites can also allow a window into hidden or dangerous worlds. Pitt uses the example of ISIS destruction of the temples of Palmyra as reported by the BBC, as an occasion when satellite imagery supplemented an existing story, and he says that space technology companies are betting on their imagery becoming part of journalisms bank of story leads.

Satellites can be thought of as reporting tools with great international access and superhuman capabilities, and the private operating companies will provide the content to all comers (as long as they’re able to pay).