Sensors for journalism??

When I was first assigned to research sensors and journalism I was very scared. I had no idea what a sensor was, what it did or why we needed it. But I can now say I know what a sensor is and I think they can really enhance a news story.

A sensor is a device that detects or measures a product and then records or responds to it.

I learned that sensors were used to detect contaminated soil in USA Today’s Ghost Factories story.

USA Today’s Ghost Factories

I thought this was the best way to use a sensor because a reporter needs data in a story like this. I also think there is great potential for other stories to use sensors. A reporter can use sensors to measure Connecticut shoreline erosion, specific areas where the most distracted driving accidents occur and a comparison of sweatshops 40 years ago and now.

But before any investigative reporter can start a project like the ones I suggested above, they have to consider legal and ethical concerns.

A reporter has to think about safety, privacy and new liabilities, like open and closed licenses on software and hardware.

However, by involving communities in sensing projects, journalists may not be obligated to ensure the physical and social safety of its members, says journalist and strategist John Stearns.

So are sensors buzz or b.s.? I don’t think so. It’s another tool in the journalist’s toolbox that can be used a lot.

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