January 30, 2017

Newsrooms around the world are experimenting with unmanned drone aircraft to add context to their visual reports. But drones require a high level of skill and safety awareness and, as of 2016, an FAA license to operate commercially.

The Poynter Institute is offering a groundbreaking training initiative to give journalists the skills and strategies they need as these powerful tools make their way into newsrooms across the country. The program is offered in partnership with Google News Lab, the Drone Journalism Lab at the University of Nebraska, the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) and DJI, a global industry leader in aerial camera systems.

The initiative kicks off with a series of intensive three-day workshops that prepare journalists to study for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Part 107 drone pilot’s certificate. The workshops also give journalists hands-on flight time with DJI’s drones, and will focus on the ethics of drone journalism, community best practices and coordinated operations in a breaking news environment, as well as ideas and inspiration for the journalism and storytelling they will do. Poynter will expand the program with online training later this year.

“One reason we wanted to conduct these workshops is because we were seeing one-day training workshops that are too expensive for journalists. We want to put this knowledge within reach of every newsroom regardless of size,” said Poynter’s Al Tompkins, who is organizing the workshops. “Plus, journalists have unique training needs that are different from others who want to use drones in their work. Journalists will need specialized training around privacy concerns that drones raise in some people’s minds.”

Four universities are serving as hosts and partners for these workshops:

“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 Matt Waite, a leading voice for drone journalism through his work at the University of Nebraska’s Drone Journalism Lab and occasional contributor to Poynter.org. “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.”

Seating is limited to 60 participants at each location. The cost for the three-day workshop is $295. In addition, a limited number of travel scholarships are available 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.

Journalists (including newsroom teams), journalism students and journalism educators are encouraged to attend. Poynter also welcomes newsroom managers who will be making decisions about drone deployment and need to understand the legal implications of drone photography.

The workshops also include NPPA’s 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.

“NPPA has been at the forefront in advocating for the use of drones for newsgathering. With that opportunity comes an inherent role of operating sUAS in a legal, safe and responsible manner,” Osterreicher said.

For more information and to sign up for the workshops, please go to poy.nu/drones2017.

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Vicki Krueger has worked with The Poynter Institute for more than 20 years in roles from editor to director of interactive learning and her current…
Vicki Krueger

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