The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called for more attention to news safety in media coverage of breaking news events following the tragic collision of two news media helicopters in the United States last week that left two journalists and two pilots dead.
The accident happened last Friday as five rival television networks were using helicopters to cover a police chase in Arizona.
The global media safety watchdog the International News Safety Institute has written to KNXV-TV, KTVK and the US-based Radio and TV News Directors' Association expressing concern and reminding them that journalist safety should be a priority over competitive issues in dangerous conditions.
"This tragedy illustrates how dangerous journalism has become in the age of breaking news and heavy competition for dramatic news footage," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "It is most important that there is an inquiry to make sure that no-one was taking unnecessary risks that could have led to this terrible event."
The two helicopters were among six in the air at the time of the collision — five news helicopters and a police helicopter all following the police chase in downtown Phoenix, Arizona. The other helicopters immediately broadcast images of the burning wreckage.
Those killed were a pilot, Craig Smith, and a photographer, Rick Krolak, of KNXV, an affiliate of the national United States network ABC; a second pilot, Scott Bowerbank, and a photographer, Jim Cox, of KTVK, an independent television station.
KNXV was broadcasting live footage of the chase as the collision occurred. Both TV stations covered the crash, though their reporters, photographers and technicians on the scene said they had been instructed not to speak to other members of the news media about the collision.
"It is important that guidelines are in place that make sure that at no time is the safety of news people compromised," said White. The IFJ says that there is growing concern over pressure on news teams to deliver dramatic and exclusive news footage.