Your task as a backpack journalist is to produce a video story from A to Z all by yourself. Backpack Journalism requires the journalist to take on several roles: reporter, editor and producer of stories, cameraman, and audio engineer. Oftentimes you have to work in distant locations that are inaccessible to ordinary reporters and their camera crews.
The Backpack Journalist as a “One-man-band”
The backpack journalists work as a “one-man-band”, because they have to do the work of an entire crew. Many reporters like to work alone and have more creative control over their stories. In these days, the technological advances allow more and more journalists to become a “backpacker”, because you can do more with less. They can use equipment like: a digital camera, satellite phones, a laptop, and a smartphone.
It is a great advantage for news stations to have backpack journalists who can do everything on their own, because now they are able to triple the amount of stories that can be covered.
How to succeed in the field alone?
“When it gets on the air, you will never know the difference.”
First of all, it is very important to learn how to handle the technical details to be capable to capture moments solo and create an urgent story. As a backpack journalist you cannot just take your camera, get out of the door and expect to be accepted as a professional journalist. The reporters have to know exactly where to plug in the microphone, otherwise they risk that their interview subject choose not to do the story. This means it is important for them to practice how to set up their camera gear. In addition, backpack journalists have to build their interviewing skills all the time, because strong interviewing skills let their interviewed person build trust in them.
Another thing how backpack journalist can tell better stories, is to make the station web site to their domain. This means they should spend a personal investment of an hour-and-a-half to put a text version, with a video clip and a slideshow online. It is favorable to have web skills and to be able to be a journalist on different platforms. With putting their stories online they give the people the power to share their stories with the world.
In addition, it is very important that backpack journalists have a plan and a budget to show their news director, if they want to hit the road for getting a new story. They should try to be specific and sell their stories. The travel aspect in this job is not a paid vacation on the company, but a great chance to do real storytelling on their terms.