School's service helps newsrooms blend technology, storytelling

Prof. Michael McKisson (second from right) and students practice flying a drone. (Photo by Chris Richards)

School awarded $35,000 grant from Online News Association.

The school's award-winning projects:

Newsrooms across the state can now hire students from the University of Arizona School of Journalism to help them use emerging storytelling tools such as drones and 360-degree video cameras.

The school has launched Digital News Production and Consultation Services — — to offer training and consultation to news organizations that want to certify drone pilots, better understand product development in journalism or begin work with immersive reporting.

“The idea is that we are already teaching our students how to use this technology in class, so we thought it would make sense if we could help local newsrooms around the state at the same time,” said Michael McKisson, a UA journalism professor with multimedia skills who is leading the service.

“The really cool thing about it is students will get experience and clips, and will be paid for their work.”

McKisson’s team of students has worked with drone videography for more than a year, including along the border in Mexico. Certified and insured, the team follows all FAA rules and has a strict safety protocol, he said. 

Besides drones and 360 cameras, the team also works with sensors that can help newsrooms gather data for stories, such as air or noise pollution.

“The UA School of Journalism was one of the first journalism programs in the country to work with immersive journalism,” McKisson said. “We have extensive experience creating engaging stories.”

In August, a team of students led by McKisson and Associate Professor Celeste González de Bustamante, won first place in the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication’s Best of Digital Competition for an investigation of the border — — utilizing drone and 360-degree video technology.

This month McKisson was awarded a $35,000 Online News Association challenge grant to partner students with the Arizona Daily Star in developing new electronic news products.

The team charges $50 to $75 per hour, depending on the project, with most of the money going to students.

“With a bit of money left over, it then allows us to continue reinvesting in new technology,” McKisson said, “so we can continue to be on the cutting edge.”

For more information, contact McKisson at or 520-621-7556.

Published Date: 

10/10/2017 - 9:44am