First Amendment tool or silent snoop?
  • First Amendment tool or silent snoop?

The skill set desired of the modern young journalist keeps getting more and more elaborate. To the ability to interview, write, photograph, videotape, edit, and self-promote on social media (apologies for the skills I’ve overlooked), add this new cutting-edge facility:

The know-how to operate a drone.

A lot of people don’t like what drones do and represent, but that hasn’t kept journalism from being tantalized by the possibilities. And now the journalism and communications programs of the University of Missouri (my alma mater) and the University of Nebraska are operating drones and teaching students what to do with them. Here’s an overview from The Missouri program is brand-new; Nebraska’s has been around since late 2011; both are considered experimental. But that’s because both schools are feeling their way, not because no one has a clue whether drones can be useful to journalism.

Says the mission statement of Nebraska’s Drone Journalism Lab: “Drones are an ideal platform for journalism.” The Missouri program is more restrained. “We are anxious to explore the new approaches to information-gathering and storytelling that this new technology promises,” says the syllabus for the drone journalism course. “But we also must remember that we cannot be advocates for journalism drones, at least not until the research is done and the evidence is in.”