If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the story that can be told with a photograph taken even just 50 feet above an area ravaged by a tornado.
With the ability to go where humans can’t, such as natural disasters and conflict zones, drones open new frontiers for news coverage. For photojournalists, drones offer a soaring perspective that captures the story better and more effectively informs the public.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications professor Matt Waite has been a trailblazer in that territory for years. In 2011, the Pulitzer Prize-winner launched the Drone Journalism Lab — creating the first-of-its-kind course sequence and helping to define best practices in this rapidly developing journalistic method.
Students learn drone operation safety, the legal and ethical issues of drone journalism, and the emerging field’s best practices. By leading in this space, Waite is not only helping Nebraska students build skills, he’s also helping them gain a competitive advantage. He has prepared among the first journalism graduates in the nation to leave a campus not just with a degree but also a license to fly drones.
When drones are in the news, Matt Waite’s phone rings. He’s the go-to expert for reporters, lawmakers and audiences around the world. Last fall, Waite led a training workshop in Lincoln on safe drone operation to prepare journalists for the Federal Aviation Administration’s drone pilot certification test – the sixth such workshop. In those, he has trained more than 400 journalists nationwide how to use drones legally, safely and ethically.
Waite, a UNL alumnus, received the University of Nebraska’s Innovation, Development and Engagement Award in 2016 for taking his expertise in the legal and ethical complexities of using pilotless aircraft for journalism purposes beyond the classroom.