Robot vs. Human

How many news media drones—or camera and microphone mounted on the end of broomsticks (see last graph of Louise Roug’s article “Eye in the Sky,” May/June 2014)—should authorities allow at a crash scene, big fire, or other newsy event? Several? Dozens? Hundreds?

Should they be limited only to those operated by professional news reporters/photographers who possess properly authorized “press” credentials? Or should any blogger or curious citizen be permitted to fly one—or two, or several—over a “newsy” scene?

As a former editor of daily and weekly newspapers and correspondent for an international news service, it is easy for me to imagine a time when dozens of news organizations might wish to send a drone to a potential “news” site.

Will robots, flying or otherwise, replace many human reporters and photographers? Or even editors?

Should the drone—or camera/microphone on broomstick—display a “press pass” clearly identifiable at the scene by police, firefighters, et al? Many times at a crash or fire scene, or at a large gathering or important event, etc., I was asked to show my “press pass.”

When people die or suffer serious injury, physical or financial, as a result of a drone or drones being at a supposed news scene, who will be held responsible? I’m afraid it won’t be the news organization, but likely will be the reporter or photographer.

Perhaps the best question of all for journalists: In the future, will robots, flying or otherwise, replace many human reporters and photographers? Or even editors? I’m afraid it might be many.

John A. Moore

Editor, The Travelin’ Grampa

Lansdowne, PA

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I read Voice of San Diego regularly, am a member (“Part of the club,” May/June), and have contributed a few opinion pieces. I find it a refreshing alternative to the local newspaper, which I continue to rely on primarily for basic news, which vosd cannot offer due to limited staff. The one significant weakness I see with vosd is the youth and inexperience of its staff, which turns over pretty regularly. There is a lack of historical context and broad understanding of issues that can, at times, mean that stories lack the depth of reportage one might expect from a larger news organization with a more seasoned staff. As an example, the pension issue, which is mentioned here, grew out of decisions by the city council in the late 1990s, long before this news organization existed or its reporters had graduated from college. That doesn’t make it impossible to report with adequate research. It does mean there is a lack of institutional experience with the issue from the editor on down that can hamper quality reporting.

When a ballot measure was brought to the voters on the pension, a key evaluation was made by a single actuary that had enormous influence. This actuarial evaluation was quite complicated for someone without in-depth knowledge of the functioning of pension systems to evaluate. vosd essentially accepted the evaluation at face value, and has continued to do so, rather than diving into it, most likely due to lack of staff members with any real experience in the area. I do not perceive meaningful bias on the part of vosd, but I do perceive a degree of naivete that comes from inexperience with the historical influences that shape the issues before us. This is perhaps inevitable in a news organization that is not only very new, but elects to hire (for reasons of cost or proclivity) relatively inexperienced reporters.

Chris Brewster

Comment on

Before you lavish the kudos on VOSD, you need to look more closely. Their ties to some of the moneyed interests in San Diego have definitely undermined any claim to objectivity.

I have several examples, but here’s the most egregious:

The Voice website lists venture capitalist Buzz Woolley as one of their “Founders.” Wooley has been a major donor and chair of their board.

Woolley is also active in the charter schools movement and a strong critic of the public schools.

In 2014, when the SD Unified School District put a $2.8 billion bond measure on the ballot, Woolley was the largest campaign contributor in opposition.

The Voice’s coverage of the bond was sharply critical, as it has been of the school district; but not of the charter schools movement.

I need to explain my role here. I ran the campaign for the bond.

Now, the Voice is entitled to be critical and Woolley is entitled to oppose any ballot measure he wants. But when I called to ask Scott Lewis if he thought his readers should know the facts about Woolley’s funding of the bond opposition, he accused me of “bias-baiting” and hung up the phone.

The Editors