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Whitepaper on Backpack Journalism

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The Future of Backpack Journalism

The backpack journalism method has great potential, says Anger of latimes.com. “It can be art. It has the visual power of photography with added value of audio information... and another level of creativity...It is the child of documentary non-fiction filmmaking, which is a powerful storytelling medium. Why can’t video journalism be at that level?” 

Tricks quote

Independent producer Sacha sees the method as a key to unlocking new techniques of storytelling; enabling a way to move past the image conventions and story lines that have defined journalistic storytelling in mass media during the last part of the 20th century. “So few are striking out with new visions and finding new ways of telling stories. I’d like to see us relying on the trite tricks of the past 50 years,” he says.  

But who will pay for it?  

Most journalists say there are few opportunities at existing media companies. But practitioners are finding non-profits, community and government organizations and even corporations are eager clients who view video as a way to connect with niche audiences. Toronto Marketing Consultant Sandra Bekhor says online video could help a company “engage with growth markets in a manner previously monopolized by television... because online video intensifies the online experience without the cost or commercial dimension of television.” *

Former Dallas Morning News, photojournalist David Leeson has found steady work producing short documentaries for Southern Methodist University, AARP, NRA, Children’s Medical Hospital and even a local car club in Dallas. P.F. Bentley, a former contract photojournalist covering politics for Time magazine, now shoots documentary videos for corporate clients. “My clients like me because they are getting twice the quality for half the price, compared to conventional use of broadcast crews to make video,” he says. “There is no real money in video journalism presently.”  

No money quote

Trailblazing videographer Rosenblum tells young people to strike out on their own to form small companies where they can control the production processes and distribution channels and earn revenue from every part of the effort. “Have an idea, make it work, capitalize it, and then sell it,” he says. “There is still more money chasing good ideas than good ideas chasing money.”  

In time, some journalists say, media companies will figure out a workable revenue model and provide a home for video storytelling produced through the backpack journalism method. “There is great strength in existing news brands,” Time’s Duff says. “As long as we can maintain the integrity of what we do, at some point we will figure out how we can get the revenues and make money again.”

*Bekhor, Sandra, “Marketing Professional Services With Online Video,” Toronto Marketing Blog.

Challenges | The Role of the Backpack Journalist