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UNL News Blog

Archive for December, 2011

Another good year for UNL in the national news

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

It was a big year for UNL in many ways, and our progress, expertise and change was often chronicled by the national media. Next semester, we’ll pull together our annual list of national news appearances by faculty, staff, students and administrators for 2011. But until then, here are a few highlights from 2011:

Carlos Asarta’s quick thinking and videography skills from Tokyo Tower during the massive February Japanese earthquake. His video landed on network news outlets around the globe.

UNL’s entrance into the Big Ten Conference on July 1 got wide coverage, including The Chicago Tribune and ESPN.

The National Drought Mitigation Center’s climatologists were busy tracking some of the most exceptional drought on record in the southern United States this summer.

UNL hydrologists were busy giving their scientific opinions about the Ogallala Aquifer and the effect the proposed Keystone XL pipeline could have upon it.

English professors Andrew Jewell and Guy Reynolds made national headlines in May when the university was gifted a trove of Willa Cather materials from her family’s estate, including an unfinished manuscript of her final book.

Digital humanist Kenneth Price discovered 3,000 new documents written in Walt Whitman’s hand in the National Archives, and unveiled them in April. The national media flocked to Washington, D.C., for the release of the documents.

Philip Schwadel’s research into education’s effects on religiosity garnered national interest from places such as USA TODAY, CNN and The Discovery Channel.

Susan Swearer, a UNL school psychologist, took part in a March summit at the White House on bullying hosted by the president, the first lady and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. She appeared on Good Morning America the same day as the conference.

Eric Thompson and William Walstad’s State Entrepreneurship Index, which measured and ranked entrepreneurial activity in all 50 states, received wide and consistent coverage throughout the country during August and September.

Political scientist Mike Wagner was quoted regularly on domestic politics, including in CNN stories about what was expected of President Obama in a speech to the nation after Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting, the difficulty of town hall meetings and the tricky nature of redistricting Congressional districts.

There are many other examples of our national media presence, of course. We’ll have a full list for you the week of Jan. 3. Until then, have a happy holiday break.

UNL to study ethical, legal issues of ‘drone journalism’

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

When the Federal Aviation Administration proposes new rules on the domestic use of drones next month, the remote-controlled types of aircraft usually associated with stalking terrorists overseas will take a big step toward entering U.S. skies.

That means a number of industries and agencies will at some point acquire and deploy the small, unmanned aircraft to help them do their jobs: Police, for example, could launch drones to look for fleeing suspects. Farmers, meanwhile, could send them over fields to inform them of irrigation strategies.

And news organizations, says University of Nebraska-Lincoln journalism professor Matthew Waite, will begin to inject them into areas ground-bound reporters can’t easily go to capture news footage, such as tornado-ravaged neighborhoods or above crowded squares where protesters may be gathered.

But before the first drone is launched in the name of newsgathering, a host of questions and concerns arise – from how to best use the new technology to deliver news and information efficiently to whether drones are a privacy and safety threat that would lump them, in the public’s mind, in the same camp as celebrity-chasing paparazzi.

That’s why Waite, a professor of practice at UNL’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications, says the time is right to study just how exactly the use of the unmanned aircraft may affect the practice of journalism. Last month, he founded the Drone Journalism Lab at UNL to examine the practical, ethical and legal issues involving drones and news reporting.

In addition to researching the myriad issues that using the pilotless aircraft may create, Waite said students and faculty would eventually use drones in the field.

The lab is a needed resource, he said, because while drones can provide an affordable way for news operations to cover disasters and other types of stories in new and innovative ways, a general outline on the dos and don’ts for such a new newsgathering method hasn’t yet been established.

“We have a responsibility to discuss the use of this new platform, its safety, its legality,” Waite said. “We also need to lay out an ethical framework for its use. What are the right uses of civilian drones? How can journalists use them responsibly? How do you balance the public’s right to know with privacy or security?”

The sooner journalists start having those kinds of conversations, Waite said, the more likely they can have clear answers – both in their daily newsgathering efforts and also in the face of critics who, inevitably, will simply see drone journalism as an invasion of privacy.

“Before there is widespread adoption, we can help managers make a decision – is this a proper use of drones?” he said. “We can help the journalism industry to determine what are good uses and what are bad uses, so when the time for decisions comes around, it’s not based on ignorance, it’s based on our findings and research.”

Waite said he expects to incorporate the lab into future classes – in the classroom by looking at the history of technology’s role in journalism ethics, and also in the field through a summer environmental journalism and data visualization class that will deploy small, inexpensive drones.

“The lab will deal with nearly everything about this new form of journalism,” Waite said. “People have asked, ‘What is the lab’s role when it comes to using drones?’ and my answer is ‘Yes.’”

Contact: Matthew Waite, professor of practice, College of Journalism and Mass Communications, (402) 472-5840 or

UNL in the national news: November 2011

Friday, December 2nd, 2011
National media outlets featured and cited UNL sources on a number of topics in the past month. Appearances in national media included:
Sam Allgood and William Walstad, economics, had their research into how Americans’ credit-card behavior is affected by their perceived and actual financial knowledge featured by Consumer Affairs on Nov. 30.
Wheeler Winston Dixon, film studies, was quoted Nov. 11 by The Independent (UK) in a story analyzing James Cameron’s move to bring back “Titanic” in 3D.
Donna Dudney, finance, was quoted Nov. 30 by the New York Times about Warren Buffett’s plan to buy the Omaha World-Herald. Her comments also appeared at Poynter Online and the Christian Science Monitor.
Brian Fuchs, geosciences, was quoted by Reuters Global on Nov. 3 about the persistence of drought in Texas and the Midwest. On Nov. 30, he was quoted in an Associated Press article about the National Drought Mitigation Center’s new partnership with NASA satellites to determine groundwater levels around the globe, particularly in Texas. The story appeared in hundreds of news outlets around the world.
The Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts was the subject of several articles when it announced Nov. 5 that the John W. Carson Foundation would establish a new $1 million scholarship fund for Nebraska students. Coverage included Variety, StageDirections, and an Associated Press article that appeared nationwide.
Gary Kebbel, dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, was quoted in several media outlets Nov. 30 regarding Warren Buffett’s plan to buy the Omaha World-Herald, including Poynter Online.
Ari Kohen, political science, discussed the use of online resources in his classes, particularly an iPad application called “Imaging the Iliad,” in a Nov. 6 special report from the Chronicle of Higher Education.
The National Drought Mitigation Center’s new partnership with NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, was highlighted in an Associated Press article on Nov. 30 regarding the partnership’s deductions about Texas groundwater. The story appeared in news outlets around the world.
Stephen Ramsay, English, was cited Nov. 30 by the Chronicle of Higher Education in an article discussing how much coding knowledge is necessary for students to be successful in the digital humanities.
Scott Stoltenberg, psychology, had his research findings on genetic links to male impulsivity and alcohol problems featured by LiveScience, MSNBC, Fox News, CNBC, Gizmodo, and Scientific American in mid-November.
Jay Storz, School of Biological Sciences, had his research on vertebrate-specific globins and genome duplications in lancelets featured by Scientific American on Nov. 14.
Eric Thompson, economics, was quoted in a Nov. 21 Bloomberg News article about Gov. Dave Heineman’s “Red State environmentalism.”
Mike Wagner, political science, was quoted by PostMedia News on Nov. 3 about the Keystone XL’s role in President Obama’s re-election prospects. The story appeared across media outlets in Canada and the United States, including the Montreal Gazette, the Ottawa Sun and the Toronto Star. On Nov. 21, he was quoted by Bloomberg News about Gov. Dave Heineman’s “Red State environmentalism.”
Sandra Zellmer, law, was quoted Nov. 7 in Bloomberg News coverage regarding the legal requirements for moving the Keystone XL’s proposed route through Nebraska.
National media often work with University Communications to identify and connect with UNL sources for the purpose of including the university’s research, expertise and programming in published work. Faculty and administration appearances in the national media are logged here.
To offer suggestions regarding potential national news stories or sources at UNL, contact me at or (402) 472-4226.