Sending journalists out to report on unrest in remote areas is not a new concept for the media; news articles from war zones, disaster places, and elsewhere in the world have always dominated among the main headlines.
However, the difference in some zones is that the technology the journalists are using to file their reports, it has undergone something of a technological revolution. Access to specialist satellite equipment is open to more people than ever before.
Satellite phones are in fact playing an increasingly important role in news and information flows during times of crisis. Think about how some journalists have had to report ‘up to the minute’ news from the front lines in places like Iraq.
To name one of the most important names in satellite communications, using the Iridium network of 66 satellites orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 450 miles, the journalists are able, for example, to speak to their news desk back in their native or working countries, without having to rely on the telephone networks of the war zones, unsafe as they could be a military target.
Satellite technology becomes journalism friendly
The use of satellite phones is not a totally new development for war reporters. they were used in the Gulf War back in 1991, the difference lies in the size and availability of satellite phones. Today, instead of having to operate 40kg units that needed generators or mains power, journalists are able to use handsets like the Iridium satellite phone that weighs a much friendlier 382g and, operates much like a standard cell phone.
Also, as is the case with all technologies, the more developed they become the lower the prices go. Now it is not just the media market leaders that can afford to use satellite technology but many freelancers and smaller companies as well.
Satellite phones and the media coverage
The term ‘Backpack Journalist’ has been coined to describe the new generation of reporters who are using compact, light weight satellite technology such as the Iridium satellite phone; one person with one pack can carry all the equipment needed to file news reports. As a result it is easier for them to operate from the thick of the action.
What this means for people back home is more spontaneous, independent and ‘up to the minute’ information from the world’s danger zones.