Backpack journalists are like surfers among bytes and gigabytes of information. They ride the wave smoothly as nothing is happening: stay calm no matter what is a secret weapon of backpack journalists.
Not anyone is capable of leading this way of life, though. So, what does it take to be an excellent backpack journalist? All the brass tracks here.
Who is a backpack journalist?
Many years ago a journalist would be just someone standing at the scene with a microphone in front of a camera man and reporting the events that took place.
Now everything is like a thousand times faster.
A person who films & cuts & edits footage — all-in-one. This way, you’re the first who captures the story. You’re the boss, but do you have time to truly appreciate that?
Being a backpack journalist has its unique advantages.
- Traveling: light spirit, digging gems
If you’re a person who is adventurous-driven — backpack journalism is definitely your story. Meeting new people, communicating, delivering a picture right like you see it: isn’t it glorious? For a person who cannot bear the tough office atmosphere — being out there on your own sounds perfetto!
- Cherry-picking the event
Something happened just a minute ago? While other news teams are packing their equipment — you’re already there, in a front row, calibrating the camera lens.
Being on your own, it is much easier to travel places that are hard for big news teams to get to. For example, areas with extreme weather conditions or those inaccessible to most means of transport. If you are innovation-dependent, then you’d adore the idea to be the first one to know something and pass it to the world.
- High demand
With the numerous technological advancements achieved in the last decade it’s now possible to cut the time between an incident and its subsequent surfacing on the Web tremendously.
The job is highly desired, as being the first to report on something is significantly beneficial to any news company. Those who own information first-hand — in the news business — own the biggest market share.
Yes, it has its downsides too. You probably can see them right away.
- Rough Environment
Being under the stress of delivering content right on time is not easy-peasy even for those who sit in their comfortable office chairs. Now, imagine that you have to combine all together, especially when tied to a schedule. Sleepless nights, a hotdog instead of a meal — yes, everything can happen there.
2. Bye-bye, comfort zone!
Although you may collect some eye-opening experiences while taking pictures with Thai kids, or shooting some of the rare species of birds in Jamaica, the job is not for … well, softies. If you’re used to staying in nice hotels while traveling and taking your morning shower after a cup of coffee, better confess it to yourself: you don’t like discomfort. That’s fine. Backpack journalists see the beauty of it, that’s why they nail it.
“Suddenly, it’s not about telling an important story through mobile mediums. Instead it’s about telling a story that will provoke readers enough to engage with it.”
It seems like traditional media is not that fond of new rules that are embraced as the digital world evolves. The shift from crafting well-composed stories to evoking audience reaction seems like only natural in the world where your well-being is usually measured by the number of likes in your Instagram account.
Backpack journalism is just a natural reaction to changes in the way people consume information today — no more, no less. Information now is not only about reporting — it’s a two-way street, where people are participators, not just viewers.
What does it require to become a backpack journalist?
Once the job of a backpack journalist has become clear, let us get into some of the skills and gear that are required in order for you to get started and create content.
- You have to be a skilled videographer and writer. Through their stories, journalists communicate events in their factual integrity, meaning that a lot of fact-checked research has to be conducted. Once the news report is written, told, and filmed, it has to be professionally edited. For a piece of commentary to be informative and captivating, it should contain a basic summary of the news, the unique details pertaining to a specific case and perhaps an interview of the people involved. No stones left unturned.
- The visual aspect, of course, has to be up to par – the images we see on screen in combination with spoken commentary together should satisfy the viewer with all the information that is to be revealed on a subject. And in order to do that, you should find out what kind of photo- and video gear a backpack journalist uses in their professional activity.
What cameras do backpack journalists use?
A backpack journalist carries all of their gear in their backpack, so naturally the equipment has to be compact and the cameras are usually hand-held. Not only that, but when you spend the whole day out and about, you need to really be able to rely on your equipment and be sure that your camera won’t die in the middle of recording.
Let’s take a look at some of the best cameras on the market that fit the requirements listed above.
Top handheld cameras with longest battery life
- Casio EX-ZR400
- Casio EX-ZR300
- Sony WX350
You can view the full list here.
On top of the battery life, it also has to have appropriate memory capacity to fit long footage and have great quality images.
These are the top SD cards for your camera
- SanDisk Extreme PRO SD UHS-I
- Lexar Professional 633x SDXC UHS-I
- Lexar Professional Class 10 UHS-II 2000X Speed
View the entire list here.
The camera, much like all the other gear, can’t be too delicate, and it should be durable when you are constantly on the move.
Top most durable cameras
- Olympus Stylus TOUGH TG-4
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX30
- Nikon COOLPIX AW130 Waterproof Digital Camera
View the full list here.
It is also necessary for the camera to be equipped with an image stabilizer which will provide a clear picture even in case of motion.
Top cameras with image stabilizer
- Fujifilm GFX 100
- Sony A7R IV
- Sony a1
Take a look at all of the cameras here.
Now, these criteria are strict and the camera that ends up meeting all of them will naturally be somewhat pricey, but it is simply essential in this field.
Many of the previous requirements can be applied to the computer, as well: it should be compact, lightweight, durable and have good battery life.
However, it should also have eligible hard drive capacity for working with large files, be compatible with the necessary cameras, phones, router and audio recorders for fast and easy on-the-go connection. It must have a powerful graphics card, appropriate RAM storage capacity and in some cases of travel in riskier conditions – be water and impact resistant.
Take a look at some of the most durable laptops
- Dell Latitude 14 Rugged Extreme
- Dell Latitude 14 Rugged
- Panasonic Toughbook CF-33
The best compact laptops
- M1 MacBook Air
- Dell XPS 13
- Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga
Drones: little rascals hunting for secrets
Pretty much like handheld cameras, these unmanned vehicles can become an irreplaceable asset, a true ace up your sleeve as a backpack journalist. The most remarkable journalist investigations have been held with the help of these aerial helpers.
The most obvious power of drones in the context of journalism is their ability to catch images that a person staying on the land cannot. Especially is the technology helpful when it comes to the need to record some objects that are inaccessible in other ways.
So, here is the list of robust flying cameras:
- DJI Mavic 2 Pro
- Ryze Tello
- PowerVision PowerEgg X
View the full list.
Backpack journalists really do it all – the filming, the sound, the writing and the editing. Although it does require multifaceted skills and the appropriate gear always on hand, the freedom you get and the time you save by taking everything into your own hands is astounding.
Having said all that, being a backpack journalist is truly a rewarding job, and we hope that we have provided enough insight on the matter so that you can make a corresponding decision and see if this job is the right one for you.
Read also: Journalism & Media Trends And Predictions 2021 (coming soon)