WASHINGTON, DC, 16 April 2011 — I get questions on equipment all the time. What camera should I buy? What kind of backpack do I use? What about that data transmitter I saw in one of your videos?
The latest equipment query was about the HDSLRs, which look like still cameras but shoot video as well. In response to this query, I wrote a version of the following, which you might find useful:
We published a long review of the HDSLR issue on American University’s Backpack Journalism Project web site: http://www.american.edu/soc/backpack/Roach-Engel-1.cfm. This piece was done by a colleague of mine in conjunction with a graduate student at AU. I think it’s pretty comprehensive and would suggest you take a read. In a nutshell, I think these cameras can be useful when their capacity to control depth of field adds an important component to content. But too many journalists and filmmakers, I believe, get caught up in new technology at the expense of content: The Story. For my type of work, in particular, the add-ons necessary for acquiring decent sound are an impediment to the kind of run-and-gun stuff that I generally produce. I was just out at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention in Vegas a week ago and Sony had some new cameras that were affordable, HD, compact and that delivered superb imagery and sound. I’m also familiar with the Panasonic HMC-150, which is a nice … solid camera. I hope this helps.
Above, visitors to the Sony display look over an array of new cameras during the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention in Las Vegas.
(Photo by Bill Gentile.)
WASHINGTON, DC, 13 April 2011 — Bridges to Community, a leading U.S. non-profit working in Nicaragua, has announced its collaboration with my “Backpack Documentary Expedition: Nicaragua,” scheduled for 24 June – 3 July of this year. Based in Ossining, New York, Bridges to Community is a non-profit community development organization aiming “to create a world where basic needs are treated as human rights: shelter, nutrition, education, health care, and employment. We work to meet this goal by bringing groups of volunteers to live in materially poor communities where they work on our ongoing community development projects.” You can read more about the group here.
There is one slot remaining for participants in the Expedition. For more information on how to join us, click here.
WASHINGTON, DC, 12 April 2011 — Am still a bit jet-lagged after the red-eye flight from Las Vegas to DC Sunday night but gratified by the opportunity to speak with so many practitioners and instructors at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) convention over the weekend. Above, some of the attendees watch “Afghanistan: The Forgotten War,” which I shot, produced and narrated and which was broadcast by NOW on PBS. The piece, which I believe embodies and validates the methodology that we refer to as “backpack video journalism,” was nominated for a National Emmy Award. The viewers were impressed with the work, and with the quality of the video, shot with Sony’s EX-1 camera.
It was Sony Corporation that flew me out to the NAB so that I might address the attendees.
(Photo by Bill Gentile.)
LAS VEGAS, 10 April 2011 — Above is the main Sony stand at the Las Vegas Convention Center where the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is holding its annual event. Sony is hosting my trip here after having asked me to lead a roundtable discussion about American University’s Backpack Journalism Project at the nearby Hard Rock Hotel, where the Sony employees are staying.
Below, potential buyers review Sony products.
(Photos by Bill Gentile.)
WASHINGTON, DC, 8 April 2001 — Many congratulations to June Carolyn Erlick’s latest edition of Harvard’s ReVista Magazine. Titled, “Journalism of the Americas,” the most recent edition is a treasure chest of useful information. I’m sharing the hard copies she sent me with students in my Foreign Correspondence class, as a number of them aspire to work as correspondents in Latin America and the Caribbean. In class next week, we’ll discuss the magazine and its coverage of the changing craft. The class is made up of both undergraduate and graduate students.
As I told June, it is heartbreaking to watch the insatiable quest for profit of U.S. media outlets that have abandoned their social responsibility to provide Americans with the information we need to make critical decisions about our lives and the life of our country. As too many of the mainstream media — and there are notable exceptions — fail their social responsibilities, others are stepping into that void.
My class recently hosted a former student who now works for Al Jazeera English in Washington, DC. He spent about an hour talking about how his outlet is trying to engage more American viewers on television — but mostly online. As we all witnessed during Al Jazeera’s outstanding coverage of the crises rolling across northern Africa and the Middle East, Al Jazeera is eclipsing U.S. news outlets and becoming THE place to go for serious, comprehensive and reliable coverage of some of the major issues of our time.
Just last week the National Press Club hosted the “Al-Jazeera and Global Jihad Conference.” Organizers of the conference aim to convince Americans that the network constitutes a threat against U.S. national security. In a campaign to “Stop Al-Jazeera’s Expansion in the United States” the sponsors, either not understanding or simply not caring that the free flow of information is every Americans’ constitutional right, urge Americans to “fight this scourge.”
And here’s where backpack video journalism come in. For the first time in the history of mankind, the average American can now communicate instantly, globally, and in a language that every person can understand: the visual language. Now, properly trained visual journalists can participate in this national and international conversation that we refer to as “journalism.” So today the people with the talent, the skill and the heart can participate in this conversation, not just the people with corporate support.
– Bill Gentile
WASHINGTON, DC, 7 April 2011 — I just received a copy of ReVista, the Harvard Review of Latin America that is edited by long-time friend and colleague June Carolyn Erlick. This Spring/Summer 2011 edition is titled, “Journalism in the Americas.” It’s a great review of the state of journalism in the hemisphere. And it’s not a pretty picture.
The piece, “Covering the Region: Fewer Foreign Correspondents,” addresses the fact that people like myself who used to cover the region have taken on new endeavors, like the “Backpack Documentary Expedition” that I’m hosting in June. I believe the above photo, with me on the right while on a patrol with Sandinista Army soldiers during the 1980s Contra War, was made my Murray Sill. You can see the piece here.
WASHINGTON, DC, 5 April 2011 — I’ve accepted an invitation by Sony to lead a roundtable discussion, titled “The Backpack Journalism Project at American University,” at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) meeting in Las Vegas this weekend.
Other presenters will be representing the University of Nevada, Ball State University, Indiana Public Radio and Colorado State University. For details, see Sony roundtable.
(Photo courtesy of Sony.)