Backpack Journalism…or Not

It’s not exactly backpack journalism. But our students are learning how to tell stories on the run with hand-held digital cameras, which is a key component of backpack journalism. The 24 students are broken down into four groups of six. The film making responsibilities are distributed among them. The kind of material they’re looking for depends on the project they designed back at American University. Only one of the projects, about shark fishing, is what I would refer to as traditional documentary film making. I accompanied this team on a trip with local fishermen who discussed their profession and the difficulties involved in practicing the profession. The other projects include a hosted show about sustainable living. Another is a series, with student actors, about environmentally friendly tourism. And the fourth is a game about the process of natural selection. The key to this class is that students learn not only the fundamentals of film making, but also the science and the international dimension of the subject matter they’ve chosen. And in this, they have been successful. They can decide later whether they want to stuff all these skills into a single backpack or distribute them among colleagues.