NPPA continued its innovative program to train journalists in using drones for newsgathering, this time with the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska. The workshops, held Sept. 21-23 in Lincoln, Nebraska, featured hands-on workshops, training on safe drone operations and information participants were eager to learn in preparation for the FAA’s Part 107 drone pilot certification test.
Additionally, those attending discussed ethical issues and community best practices, coordinated operations in breaking news environments and explored ways drone photography can be used in innovative storytelling.
Matt Waite, a professor of practice at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, provided the Part 107 material.
“As a certified drone pilot, I know how difficult the exam can be for people who have no other pilot training,” Waite said. “Our goal is to provide the tools and fundamental knowledge needed to study for and pass the FAA’s test.”
Katy Culver, an assistant professor, James E. Burgess Chair in journalism ethics and director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin – Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, conducted a session on the ethical use of drones and shared findings of a white paper titled “Drones in the Newsroom: Journalists’ Opinions on Uses and Ethics,” which she wrote with Megan Duncan in partnership with the NPPA. The paper included findings from its recent survey of journalists involved with drones, augmenting what it found a year earlier in surveying public opinion of drones in news.
“I am delighted NPPA and the Drone Journalism Lab at Nebraska put ethics front and center whenever they approach drone training. Emerging technologies can present new challenges to the relationship between journalists and citizens, and I was glad to have a deep and engaged discussion about navigating those challenges,” Culver said. “I recommend across the board that newsrooms develop policies regarding drone use and stay open and engaged with the public when implementing these or other technologies,” she added.
Also presenting examples of drone journalism and providing pilot-in-command flight training was Carmaine Means, a trailblazing CBS News photographer and drone pilot working in Los Angeles.
“Every training session while in Lincoln, the college students as well as the seasoned and highly trained professional photographers worked hard to improve their weaknesses and build on their strengths while being taught a new potential skill set,” Carmaine noted, adding: “They worked together through a very long and rigorous weekend, full of new and invaluable information.”
NPPA’s general counsel, Mickey Osterreicher, led sessions on the legal issues of drone journalism.
“NPPA has been at the forefront in advocating for the use of drones for newsgathering. 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.”
As an illustration of that point, Congress recently passed the FAA Reauthorization Act, which contained a number of counter-drone provisions that may seriously affect the First Amendment rights of journalists and the ability to use drones for newsgathering. Additionally, the Uniformed Law Commission (ULC) has proposed the “Tort Law Relating to Drones Act,” which would impose strict liability upon anyone operating a drone below 200 feet above a private property without permission as well as for capturing images using that device. The NPPA submitted its concerns and objections regarding these measures to both U.S. House and Senate staff as well as to the ULC commissioners.
In addition to the written work and sample test questions, working journalists and students received hands-on introductory flight training on a variety of drone platforms, including the DJI Mavic, Phantom and Inspire.
The workshop was made possible with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund and First Look Media. Additional funding was provided by the University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication; the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication; the Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership; and the Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications.