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Backpack Journalist Brittany Morehouse (Mary Coffman)
The backpack journalism trend is sweeping across the country as equipment gets smaller and budgets get tighter. More and more of my former students, like Brittany Morehouse of WUSA-TV in Washington, are getting jobs as backpack journalists. It’s a sign of the new reality in television newsrooms.
Brittany graduated with a master’s degree in 2003 from the Medill School of Journalism. This is her third job as a one-man band reporter, as she calls herself, or digital journalist, which is her official title. She reports, shoots, writes, and edits all her stories by herself. She often feeds from the field using a laptop.
The challenges and rewards are endless. She has total control over her stories, with the exception of a producer who reviews her copy. She says she’s able to almost edit in her camera. She knows the shots. She knows what to write. She loves the editing process. Those are the rewards.
Now the challenges. Sometimes, it ‘s hard to be on your own because of all the physical and mental challenges. It requires lots of stamina. “I feel like I age a week everyday,” Brittany said.
Brittany loves to shoot. That makes her a good backpack journalist. Reporters with other skill sets may not be as successful.
WUSA is training most of its reporters to be backpack journalists. Some veterans have chosen to leave and pursue other interests. Audrey Barnes, one of the reporters featured in this video, left the station in May, 2010.
Few question that backpack journalism is here to stay. More question how to make it work well.
This video is my first attempt as a backpack journalist. I followed Brittany around for two days to get a sense of what it’s like to do it all yourself. I shot and edited the video myself to experience first hand what it’s like to juggle all the roles. I used a Panasonic HVX 200 P2 camera and edited on Avid Newscutter.
I learned that my producing and reporting skills far surpass my shooting and editing skills. But the experience was an eye-opener, one worthy of sharing with my students and clients.
Editor’s note: Brittany Morehouse left WUSA-TV in 2011 and now resides in Atlanta, Georgia where she runs her own video production company.