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American Today


Backpack Journalism Project Web Site Goes Live

By Mike Unger

SOC Professor Bill Gentile with student

The School of Communication’s Backpack Journalism Project has a new online home.

“This is a multifaceted endeavor aimed primarily at establishing American University's School of Communication as the place to learn the methodology that we call backpack journalism,” said the project’s director, Bill Gentile. “We want the Web site to draw not just attention to our efforts, but also to draw participation, engagement, comment, contribution. We aim to build a certificate program through which we can teach this methodology to anyone who wants to learn it.”

The site’s landing page features a welcome from Gentile and five rotating “hero” images with accompanying stories. One of those tabs details Gentile’s Backpack Journalism Workshops with American University, intense four-day sessions in which students learn the ropes of this new method of reporting.

Gentile defines backpack journalism as “the craft of one properly trained professional using a hand-held digital camera to tell visual stories in a more immediate, more intimate fashion than is achievable using a larger team with a camera person, sound person, correspondent, and producer. We do it all and, most importantly, we make the pictures which are the driving force of visual communication . . . In the field, a backpack journalist shoots, acquires sound, produces, reports, interviews. Once back from the field, he writes the script and narrates where necessary. Depending on the circumstances, he either edits and uploads the piece alone, or sits side-by-side with an editor.”

“With a Board of Advisors and vast experience in every component of the craft, we aim to not just respond to trends and best practices of the field, but also to help lead those trends and to define those best practices for the field,” he said.

With its new Web site, the project has taken a major step toward accomplishing that goal.