‘Backpack’ journalism: the new reality

By Joshua Kagi

Gregg Brekke leads “Backpack Journalism: Multi-platform story creation” workshop.

Photo by Julie Brinker.

In less than a generation, the role of a journalist has changed significantly. Stories which were once produced by teams of four or five people in traditional newsrooms are now expected to be produced by a single journalist. There are new demands on content creators. Writers are now expected to be photographers. Video producers are expected to write. Nearly everyone is expected to be able to produce a multi-format story.

“In a period of 30 years, everything has changed,” stated Gregg Brekke, in opening his 2019 RCC-ACP Convention workshop, “Backpack Journalism: Multi-platform story creation.”

Using the DPDPD acronym, Brekke presented a process toolkit to help journalists and aspiring storytellers with the current reality.

  • Develop story topics, do pre-production research, schedule interviews and produce a rough script.

  • Prepare by scouting and reserving locations needed to tell the story, identify five things you need to know from interview subjects to be able to tell the story fully and accurately.

  • Document with video, stills, sound, B-roll, interviews and voice-over.

  • Produce by logging and reviewing your media assets first to help to produce a rough edit before styling and treating the piece and adding narration.

  • Distribute the final media to your client and through your social media channels.

“Now that’s your job. All those things,” Brekke said. “That used to take a team of people, but now it’s the role of the solo journalist.”

Just about the only thing that’s changed faster than the expectations for journalists is their tools.

Brekke offered tips on the tools needed to be a multi-format journalist.

In his backpack:

  • A primary camera, in his case the Nikon Z6.

  • A backup camera (he carries the Nikon D750)

  • A Rode VideoMic Pro for capturing primary audio.

  • Smartphone, which can capture high quality images, video and sound in a pinch.

  • An external audio recorder (he uses the Tascam DR-40 Digital Recorder)

  • Wireless lavalier microphone

  • Computer for editing and archiving media assets

  • Flashes

  • And three lenses for his camera, ensuring the ability to capture wide-angle, telephoto and low-light.

Brekke also underlined the need to back-up your media assets. He always produces two backups of his work in the field and will create a third back-up in the cloud at the earliest opportunity.

If you’re just getting started, Brekke recommends a prosumer level mirrorless camera like the Sony a6000-6500 line in addition to your smartphone, and also the Rode VideoMicPro.

“Sound is important, get a microphone,” he stressed.

At the end of the day, the equipment doesn’t make him a better storyteller. It may provide a shortcut, or do something faster, but it’s just convenience.

“What I want to encourage you to do is go out and try,” he said in closing. “Take your cellphone and go do a video interview.”

The way we all get better at this new reality is through practice.


Joshua Kagi is Social Media Specialist, American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

 
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