Backpack Journalism – Embrace It Now If You Want To Work In TV News

Backpack Journalism or BPJ is here to stay. No longer are just small-market stations expecting their young reporters to shoot and edit their own materials. Now, medium and larger market stations are expecting anyone who can walk and talk to be a “one-man band.”

What USA Today predicted four years ago: has now come true. Recently, USA Today’s parent company, Gannett, added “outstanding backpack journalist” as a category to its Best of Gannett Awards. Still think BPJ’s are just a rumor?

So as you’re preparing those audition tapes and resumes for that first job interview in a TV newsroom, here’s a few thoughts to make sure your backpack is ready to go.

Learn the basics of a video camera. Just because you can shoot Aunt Betty’s 80th birthday part with your home VHS doesn’t’ mean you can shoot news . Can you white balance a camera? Can you steady a tripod? Can you pan or zoom without the finished product looking like an earthquake?

If you can’t or even if you can, it’s best to get some guidance on videographer basics before you head off to that interview. If you’ve had an internship, go back and find a videographer who can share the basics with you. Even better, find a BPJ at one of those stations and have them show you the ropes.

Then, get out on the weekend and practice. Sign out a camera from your university’s communications department. If you don’t have access to a college TV shop, take mom and dad’s VHS camera and practice finding a mark, hitting “record” and running around in front to shoot a standup.

In today’s TV news world, be prepared to be a BPJ as part of your interview itself. Don’t be surprised if that News Director leans across the desk and says, “OK. Let’s see what you can do. Grab that camera, head out and get some interviews on the street about (choose a topic), shoot a standup, and come back and write a package for me. Go!”

We all know that bad news travels faster than good news. A bad or negative consumer experience can affect a business ten times more than a positive experience. It can impact the decision of the buyer and make him shift towards a competing brand. Let me illustrate a real life example that happened with me. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to buy a new mobile phone for myself. I had a brand and a model number in my mind. However just before purchasing that particular cell-phone, I decided to do some online research. After all, as human beings, we are driven by user experiences. Well, what I saw changed my decision.

The top ten online search results which popped up as I keyed in the query left me in a bit of daze. Pieces of text lying below the name of my favorite product in the search results page, had some negative information that put me off. I did not even click on the link to venture further. I then keyed in the name of a competing brand. Things were much brighter here. There were some positive reviews about the product on the top ten search results that came up. My mind was made; I went ahead and purchased the product which initially had not ranked top-most in the list.

Like me, there are many consumers including you who may decide to do some research and learn by other consumer experiences before buying a product or subscribing for a service. With the Web 2.0 search culture coming and the Time Magazine declaring the Person of the Year as You, it is evident that each one of us can create a magnanimous impact with a click of a mouse or a keyboard button. In the olden days, it was a well-known fact that the pen is mightier than the sword. That proverb can be modified to say that the Internet is a greater weapon than the biggest ammunition in the world. Needless to say, the greatest and most dynamic weapon online that can influence, provoke and even manipulate the human mind-a weblog or a blog.

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