When I started in broadcast journalism, I encountered a very vocal school of thought from more experienced colleagues regarding backpack journalists — or, more simply, reporters who shoot and edit their own stories.
I was told repeatedly that the rise of backpack journalism would (A) be a passing fad in larger markets and (B) bring down the quality level of TV news as a whole because (C) backpack journalists could never do as good a job as two- or three-person crews.
More than a decade later, all three of those predictions have proven spectacularly wrong.
For starters, more and more large-market stations are making room for reporters who do it all. Cost is one reason, obviously; one employee is cheaper than two. But stations can get away with that now because the overall quality of backpack journalism has increased dramatically over the last few years. Check out this winter’s award-winning stories in the NPPA’s quarterly solo video competition. They are strong pieces done by more than a dozen backpack journalists.
And at the top of the ladder, the best backpack journalists can produce work every bit as good as that of larger crews.
The latest example? Ted Land.
This month he begins his new job at the prestigious KING-TV in Seattle. But last month, he received a National Edward R. Murrow Award for writing in small-market TV, all thanks to stories he produced at WSBT-TV in South Bend — by himself.
Let me elaborate. The “small-market TV” category covers reporters, both solo and traditional, who work in any television market outside the top 50. In the category of writing, a backpack journalist bested an entire nation of competition.
Land is my latest guest on the Telling The Story podcast.
In this episode, Land and I discuss the prestige of winning a national Murrow, the best steps for beginners in the field, and, above all, the importance of backpack journalism. If you have not yet been convinced of its potential, you might think differently after hearing Land’s passion and confidence.
Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.