Nebraska to partner in national drone journalism training

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Nebraska to partner in national drone journalism training

Through his work at Nebraska, Professor of Practice of Journalism Matt Waite has become a leading voice in drone journalism.
File Photo
Through his work at Nebraska, Professor of Practice of Journalism Matt Waite has become a leading voice in drone journalism.

The Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications is a partner in a new innovative program to train journalists in using unmanned aerial systems for news coverage.

The lab, launched in 2011 by Professor of Practice Matt Waite, will join The Poynter Institute, Google News Lab, the National Press Photographers Association and drone industry leader DJI in leading the sessions at four universities across the nation from March through August.

The program will offer training on safe drone operations as well as information that drone pilots need to study for the Federal Aviation Administration’s new Part 107 Drone Pilot’s Certificate. In addition, the three-day workshops will focus on the legal and ethical issues of drone journalism, best practices and coordinated operations in a breaking news environment. They also will explore ways drone photography can be used in storytelling.

“Drones are purpose-built context machines. They can, in less time and at vastly reduced costs, give a viewer an understanding of the scale and scope of a story unlike anything else journalists have in the toolbox,” said Waite, who through his work at Nebraska has become a leading voice in drone journalism. “Just getting a drone straight up 100 feet in the air has the power to change our understanding of how big, how far, how wide, how massive something is. And it can be done safely and for very little cost.”

The nationwide training is an extension of the Drone Journalism Boot Camp held in Lincoln in August. The boot camp, which was also sponsored by the Google News Lab, drew 62 journalists and journalism educators from around the country to the university for training weeks before new FAA regulations covering commercial drone use went into effect.

Additional online training on drone use in journalism will be available later this year via Poynter’s e-learning platform, News University.

“As a certified drone pilot myself, I know how difficult the exam can be for people who have no other pilot training,” said Poynter’s Al Tompkins. “Our goal is not to make you ‘test-ready’ but to show you what will be on the exam and to give you the fundamental knowledge you will need to study for the test.”

Erica Anderson of Google News Lab said the organization is dedicated to supporting journalists’ experimentation with new technology.

“Drones present an opportunity for journalists to tell stories in visually rich and immersive ways, but there are still many open questions on how to apply them safely, ethically and creatively for news reporting,” Anderson said. “We couldn’t be more pleased to partner with The Poynter Institute on the drone journalism program to help tackle these challenges.”

The workshops also will include NPPA legal counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher, who has worked for years speaking on behalf of journalists as the federal government drafted regulations for where and when drone journalists could fly.

“With that opportunity comes an inherent role of operating them in a legal, safe and responsible manner,” Osterreicher said. The legal landscape is especially complex because state and local governments increasingly are imposing their own restrictions on drone flights.

The program also will feature hands-on introductory flight training sponsored by DJI, the global leader in drone technology and 2016 winner of NPPA’s Lemen award for technology innovation in photojournalism.

“We are thrilled to join with Poynter to empower journalists with state-of-the-art technology that inspires innovative storytelling,” said DJI policy lead Jon Resnick.

Four universities will host and partner with the workshops. They are:

  • University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, March 17-19;

  • Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications, April 21-23;

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, June 16-18; and

  • University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication in Portland, Aug. 18-20.

The Google News Lab will support a limited number of travel scholarships for members of the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, Native American Journalists Association and NLGJA, the Association of LGBTQ journalists.

Participation at each hands-on workshop will be limited to the first 60 people to register. Workshop details are available here.

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