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New journalism course offers students opportunity to work with drone technology

For the first time ever at Long Beach State, students will have the opportunity to explore drone technology and aerial storytelling through a new journalism course: “Trends in Online Media.”

Professor Jay Seidel, a former CSULB student and editor-in-chief of the Daily 49er, is instructing Journalism 440, a recently added program that is one of the first of its kind in Southern California, he said.

“It gives you scope and perspective like nothing else,” Seidel said.

While this program is one of the first of its kind, other colleges and universities have experimented with implementing drone technology into studies, including Fullerton College where Seidel works as technology program coordinator and is head of the drone lab established in 2018.

“Using this type of technology did not always make sense to [me],” Seidel said.

But after training at the University of Oregon’s drone journalism program, “it all clicked,” he said.

Now, Seidel said he believes learning drone journalism is an additional tool in a journalist’s toolbox to further enhance the way they do storytelling.

As far as student outcomes are concerned, he has a two-part goal.

The first is to help students understand what drone journalism is and how aerial imagery can fit into the visual aspects of storytelling.

Second, he wants to help students earn their drone licenses to show future employers that they have that skill in their repertoire.

However, the course will serve as more of a specialty class “where students will go over the basic Federal Aviation Administration regulations and standards.”

This means students should not expect the class to have drones flying around campus in the near future, Seidel said, as he plans on covering more of the legal issues and precautions first.

“Everyone’s anxious, the students yes, rightfully so,” Seidel said. “But the department’s anxious like ‘are you going to fly yet’.”

As the drone course has settled in this semester, its purpose has fascinated other faculty members in the Journalism and Public Relations department.

Jennifer Fleming, department chair of journalism and public relations, said, that “drones add breadth, scope, and nuance to visual sequences allowing storytellers to better set the visual stage for audiences.”

Long Beach State photojournalism professor Monica Almeida said that she believes the drone class offers students the opportunity to add a “great” new skill.

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