Poynter's News University is a good place to go if you want to sharpen your copy-editing skills, learn to tailor news to phones, or pick up the tools of investigative reporting.
It's also now, apparently, a place to go if you want to learn to fly a news drone to collect information for a story.
Next month, Poynter is offering a $29.95 webinar entitled "Drones for Reporting and Newsgathering: The Promise and the Peril." You will learn about the types of drones journalists can use, the costs, the kinds of stories you could report, and the legal and ethical issues surrounding drone use.
You will probably also learn that the webinar's teacher, Matt Waite, a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and former senior news technologist for the St. Petersburg Times, had his drone program shut down by the Federal Aviation Administration in July.
"In the few times that the Drone Journalism Lab in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications had gone outside and flown a small multi-rotored aircraft — call it a drone, call it a UAV, call it what you will — we’d followed the rules set out for hobbyists," he writes in his drone journalism lab blog (scroll down to see the Aug. 21 entry). He posted two videos of those flights on YouTube (here and here), where they each got 10,000 views or better, including, apparently, a few from the FAA. The FAA told Waite that because he worked for a public entity, he needed the same permit that a police department or customs office is required to have.
That sounds a bit suspicious to me. I have a feeling that if Waite worked for a private university the FAA would have found some other way to make him stop. Waite reports that the University of Missouri's drone journalism program was also shut down. Both are seeking permission to resume flying.
If any of this sounds interesting, and you want to take on the FAA–or if you work for a private organization–sign up for the webinar. And if that's not enough, get out to the Embassy Suites in Lincoln Oct. 24-26 for the drone journalism conference.
And if you can't make either of those, you can at least join the PSDJ–the Professional Society of Drone Journalists, founded in 2011.
It's time. Drone journalism is here. Get yourself prepped and start flying. Unless, of course, you live in Texas, where you could be fined $10,000 or more.