NPPA Magazine Features American University’s Backpack Journalism Project

WASHINGTON, DC, 1 September 2010 — Here’s how Donald R. Winslow starts out his piece in the latest edition of “News Photographer,” the official magazine of the National Press Photographers Association and arguably the most important magazine dealing with our craft:

OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS AT American University in Washington, DC, some of its more visionary journalism leaders came to the conclusion that before the new “backpack journalist” approach to storytelling can be accepted as an effective and legitimate journalistic practice, it needs to have its methodology defined. And it needs a standard set of “best practices” spelled out detailing how its future practitioners will be educated and trained in a systematic manner.

In a reference to my colleague Sharon Metcalf, who is the Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships & Programs at American University’s School of Communication, Winslow went on:

(Bill) Gentile and Sharon Metcalf came to (Tom) Kennedy to ask him to help them frame a vision for the backpack journalism program that’s germinating at AU as a result of Gentile’s efforts, and they plan to use the fruits of Kennedy’s research to build the school’s fledgling program into a national contender.

The article goes on to detail how Kennedy went about putting together the “white paper,” a collective vision of the craft and best practices associated with it. Tom does a great job of defining what I, and long-time practitioners like myself, call “backpack journalism.” (read: the REAL backpack journalism) You can see the entire document here.

The NPPA magazine article is lucid and highly informative. I very much recommend it. There’s only one thing that I disagree with regarding Winslow’s piece. We at American University do not aim “to build the school’s fledgling program into a national contender.”

We aim to build the uncontested national leader.

— Bill Gentile