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Roberto Rosales

on 12 November 2015

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Backpack Journalism: What is that about?
Backpack Journalism: What is that about?
Journalism as we know today has been evolving for at least seven years. It is the result of technological and, more generally, societal changes. In recent years, the use of advanced media technology has changed both the media content and its production process. The way people use media has changed, too, and journalist and publishers adapted to that. Today, everything has to be reported as quickly as possible, even if the content isn't fully researched and the facts checked. increasingly, stories are being disseminated and continuously updated, modified, even corrected, as writers continuously obtain additional information.

Professional journalism used to be a lot different. For a journalist, no formal education was considered necessary, just " a nose for news" and a skillful way of telling a story. Everything else could be learned through work and experience. Today, an ever increasing workload and time crunch lead journalists into selecting such news items that are the easiest to find and edit. Increasingly, the "raw material" for the news is being provided by public relations companies, corporate communications department and political image-makers. When they rely on the sources, journalists are in danger of losing their soul. Instead of researching, reporting, and commenting autonomously in the interest of the public, they and their media organizations become mouthpieces of powerful interests.
Tuesday, November 11, 2015
Vol XCIII, No. 311
Who is a Backpack Journalist?
What is Backpack Journalism?
Backpack journalists have the advantage of being different. It is a form of citizen journalism and is often perceived negatively by mainstream media and professional journalists.
The term "backpack journalism" is defined as grass-roots, citizen journalism.
Professional journalists tend to work in large institutional settings that require complex organizational structures and expensive technology. Computers, Internet, and digital technology brought journalistic activities within reach of a common person. You literally can pack everything you need in a small backpack, hit the road, and become a journalist. This class will teach you how to accomplish your mission well.

Visual Storytellers
Reporters, Writers
Concerned Citizens
The initial success of YouTube, the mother lode of online video, has fueled hopes among newspaper executives that video can drive consumers to websites. Their optimism is well- founded. According to ComScore, which generates statistics on web use in the U.S, the amount of time spent watching videos on line climbs each month. Online video viewing “accelerated” in 2009 with “19 percent more people in the U.S. viewing video online for longer periods of time.”
Other statistics:
-- In 2009 26% of online video viewing time was spent on YouTube and 22% on the next 24 most popular video viewing sites. Significantly, 52% of online viewing time was spent on sites other than the 25 most popular, which indicates a growing fragmentation in the market.
-- The month over month data shows the average online viewer consumed 187 videos in December 2009, a 95% increase from December 2008. And indicating a growing willingness to watch longer videos online, the duration of the average video viewed online grew from 3.2 to 4.1 minutes.

Another promising statistic is the amount of revenue video advertising generates. Since video ads began being used on newspaper-based websites, they have become the most lucrative forms of advertising available. ComScore notes, “Higher quality video and more seamless integration of video ads are emerging and adding value to the digital advertising market – to the benefit of both advertisers and publishers.”
But there is a disconnect. Even though media companies are eager to tap into this rich vein of viewership, they haven’t been willing (or perhaps able in this economic environment) to shift resources to make that possible. Many managers believe quantity will push consumer demand (as it did for YouTube) and have placed a production burden on individuals and small teams to create more video. Meanwhile video journalists say consumers are in search of quality, not quantity.
“It is all going to boil down to the quality of the finished product; the quality of story choice, the quality of story execution, and the quality of presentation,” says Jim Seida, a senior multimedia producer at MSNBC.com. “The bottom line is people want to watch great material. The technical quality of web-based video keeps getting better all the time and people want the good stuff. As the audience starts to see great examples of video stories on the web, tolerance for lower quality will diminish.” Whitaker echoes his sentiments. “In the first blush of YouTube’s success, many suggested that somehow on the web, YouTube showed people would accept lesser quality. I never bought that argument. As technology gets better and people get better using it, the people get used to seeing better things on the web, people won’t accept crappy- looking video. Our quality is going to drive expectations. People will want better quality.”
Technology has made backpack journalism possible. Innovations such as tiny, high-definition video cameras; WIFI-enabled laptops; cell phones that can transmit digital video files are all necessary tools.
Technology under development may be equally transformative. For example, the new Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras (DSLR) that have the capacity to do both still photographs and video are ready for creative experimentation.
Technological changes have also transformed journalists. A profession that saw only minor change for most of the last century, journalism is now in a constant state of flux. Journalists have learned that keeping abreast of change is the key to continued employment and the industry’s future. “If we worry soley about holding on to what we have, we are doomed.” cautions Joe Krebs, co-anchor for News4Today in Washington D.C. He says the focus must be on “what is the new next thing we are creating (through) changes in technology and approach and how can we make it as good as it can be.”
Almost all broadcast operations and many newspaper websites are using some variation of the backpack journalism method. To do it well, takes a fundamental understanding of the kinds of stories that are best told this way.
NBC’s Whitaker cites the work of Richard Engel, NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent. “While covering the Iraq invasion and its immediate aftermath, Richard was keeping a personal diary with his own little video camera. When he got back to the States, he took that material and turned it into an hour-long documentary that won all the awards.”
if you can watch a video story with the sound off and understand it, then it is a successful video story
What Backpack Journalism cannot do is replace other types of reporting. Backpack journalism should be seen as a refinement of an existing method, not a replacement. Here are some questions that can help journalists decide whether using the backpack approach makes sense:
, ask yourself why are you using video? Is it because everyone else is? Does it warrant the cost and manpower time? Does it contribute to storytelling and give your community/audience the information they need?
, be selective in choosing your stories.
, break your visual stories into categories (one- day turnaround, longer turn-around)and have a number of each.
, have realistic expectations about what backpack journalism stories can and cannot do.
, only have staff members who WANT to take on this job. Forcing the issue will create animosity and it may spill over into the final product.
If I was entering the field of Multimedia or Backpack Journalism this is the gear would I consider?
Nikon D750 $2000
Rode VMGO Video Mic GO Lightweight On-Camera Microphone Super-Cardio $80.00
Zoom H1 Handy Portable Digital Recorder
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-120mm f/4G ED VR Zoom

Accessories to consider
Accessories to Consider Part 2
Lapel Mic
Video Monitor
Mobile Phone Gear

Prosumer camcorders
Canon XA20
and similar cameras have better image and sound quality than consumer camcorders. They give you more creative control and you’ll get better results in low light. Most prosumer cameras will let you plug in separate microphones and headphones. But they don’t have all the features of a professional video camera. (I’ve just bought an XA20 myself: it’s a great little camera with excellent image stabilisation.

Good image and sound quality
Fairly easy to use
Better handling than DSLRs

Bigger and more complicated than basiccamcorders
Image quality may not be as good as system still cameras
Image quality may not be accepted by broadcasters
Best for News, documentaries and events on a budget Videos for online use
Pro camcorders
Professional camcorders give you a lot more creative control than basic or prosumer camcorders. Most of them will let you plug in pro XLR microphones. Most of the controls are dials and buttons rather than menus. This lets you can work faster once you’re used to the camera. The
Sony X70
looks good: it’s got a fairly large 1″ sensor. You’ll be able to buy an (expensive) firmware upgrade later in the year that will let you film ultra high definition 4K video. Using its footage in Premiere isn’t straightforward, though the latest version of Final Cut Pro can import it.
The new
Canon XC10
, out in June 2015, is an easier-to-use alternative to a conventional pro camcorder or a DSLR: it can shoot 4k Ultra HD, broadcast quality HD and 12MP stills in a fairly compact package.

Good image and sound quality
Lots of creative control
Quick to use once you know what you’re doing

Can be big
Fairly expensive
Take time to learn
Images may not be as pleasing as those from cheaper system still cameras
Best for

News, documentaries, and events such as weddings where you need to be able to set up and make adjustments quickly

Consumer camcorders
Cameras like the Panasonic V250 and V550K are easier to film with than iPads or still cameras. They’re good for schools and families. They have reasonable built-in microphones.

Small and unobtrusive
Good controls
Easy to handhold
Image stabilisation is usually better than DSLRs


Image and sound quality won’t be as good as prosumer or pro cameras, especially in low light.
Good for

School students
Sound equipment
Sound is vital. You need to choose the sounds you want, and cut out the ones you don’t want. The best way to do this is to use separate microphones.
Why you need a separate microphone
The big problem with any in-camera microphone is that it’s near you, not near the the sound. Move closer or further away to get different shots and the sound will change. And it’ll probably pick up sound from all around, including stuff you don’t want.

Even if you buy a better on-camera microphone you’ll only get good sound up close. You really need to put a microphone near the sound you’re trying to record. Only use in- or on-camera microphones if you’re working in a hurry (e.g. in a news or event situation) and don’t have time to set up separate mics.
Types of microphone
Lavalier microphones
Lavalier or ‘tieclip’ microphones – worn on clothes – are a good way to record voices if you don’t mind having people attached to the camera by a cable. (You can avoid this by using a radio mic or separate audio recorder – see below). The Audio Technica ATR3350 is quite cheap and has a long cable, but the output level is too low for some cameras and recorders.
Smartlav is designed to be connected to an iPhone or other smartphone.

Lavalier mics are more expensive but better quality.
Directional microphones
You can use a directional (supercardioid) microphone. This will mainly pick up sound from in front, cutting out sound from other directions.
Rode NTG-2
can be held above the action on an extending boom pole. This is the traditional way to record sound for a drama scene. The
and more expensive options like the
use professional 3-pin XLR connections, which keep noise down when you use long cables.
Rode VideoMic Pro
is designed to be mounted on the camera. It has its own built-in elastic suspension system to cut down handling noise. It’s good with DSLRs as you can boost the output level, so you shouldn’t need a separate preamp. Fit a
windshield and you can use it outdoors as well as indoors. I’ve got one and sound quality is good: drawbacks are that the elastic suspension mounts can come off and changing the battery is a bit fiddly.

You can use the VideoMic as an inexpensive substitute for a pro directional microphone, by mounting it on a boom pole and connecting it to a basic audio recorder like the
Zoom H1
clamped to the boom with a little
You’ll need to synchronise the sound when you edit.
Audio recorders
If your camera only has basic sound recording options – like many still cameras – you may be better off recording sound with a separate audio recorder and then syncing the sound up in your editing program. Pro editing programs like
Final Cut Pro X
can do this automatically.
I’m a fan of the little
Zoom H1
. It’s very affordable and records great sound indoors with its built-in stereo microphones. It’s a good, economical solution for interviews and presentations, and even indoor drama if you hide it behind props. You can connect external microphones, but you’ll need ones with a good output level to avoid hiss. It does suffer from wind and handling noise so it’s not ideal for use outdoors.
, designed specifically for DSLR filmmakers, is a four-track recorder/mixer with professional XLR mic inputs, so you can combine several microphone inputs. Unlike the Zoom, it doesn’t have a built-in microphone.
Radio microphones
Radio microphones are quite expensive, and can be tricky to use.
Sennheiser G3
system is popular with professional video makers.

When you film outside, you’ll need something to cut down wind noise. Foam covers are useless for this: you need something furry. You can get basic wind gags like the Redhead for small microphones and audio recorders.
You should listen to the sound on headphones while you’re recording if at all possible. Two words to remember:
Phantom power
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