If you’re still falling asleep each night to dreams of TV news stardom, you need to make
sure you’re looking through the lens and not just at it.
The advent of Backpack Journalism
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
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.
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!”
Also, there are quite a few good blogs out there written by BPJ’s about the daily
grind of their job as both videographer and reporter. Google them and find a good one to
Remember, this isn’t to say that BPJ is your long-term future in TV News, but you
have to survive the short-term if you’re still hoping to be on-air.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mansfield is an anchor/reporter with WKYC-TV and a part-time news writing instructor
at the University of Akron. His blog, “Get Me On The Air,” provides tips and guidance to
those looking for on-air opportunities in the world of TV news. Read his blog here: