Journalists wear several hats nowadays. From reporting to photography, those in the industry are expected to multitask. And with both digital and print publications struggling to find a space in this new landscape, the backpack journalist is expected to hustle and be quick on their feet. This means they must be creative in how they package their content.
What Is A Backpack Journalist
Backpack journalism is a fairly new concept, but it affords tons of benefits in the 24-hour news cycle. According to American University, the “model provides a strong sense of the realities of the world of the early 21st century that may exist beyond the boundaries of individual life experiences of the potential audience.” In the age of social media, this has led to users becoming journalists without joining a formal newsroom or going to school for the discipline.
“Citizens without journalistic training and who do not work for mainstream media call themselves journalists, or write in ways that fall under the general description of a journalist’s as someone who regularly writes on public issues for a public or audience,” the Center for Journalism Ethics at Wisconsin University points out.
Plenty of questions surround this issue: Should—or can—anyone be a journalist? What should a backpack journalist consider? What tools should they implement to be legit? While there’s no clear consensus, here are some things you should consider:
Ethics on the Internet
The 24-hour news cycle has created a climate where consumers expect content to be quick, accurate, and on-demand. This can prove daunting for a journalist and/or publication, as fact-checking and vetting is often a time-consuming task. Regardless, the medium is irrelevant—journalists are expected to be accurate, balanced and fair, even on social media. This means always prioritizing the truth over output speed.
Fortunately, there are resources to help keep a backpack journalist honest. The Associated Press, one of the largest nonprofit news agencies, releases a stylebook annually that covers word usage and media ethics. Since it’s updated every year, it is a reliable place to refer to ever-changing ethics. Another organization that deals with day-to-day developments in journalism is Poynter, which is an international “leader, instructor, innovator, convener and resource for anyone who aspires to engage and inform citizens in 21st-century democracies.”
Other Tools of the Trade
Not only are journalists expected to churn out stories and articles, but it is imperative to have an online presence. This means that you must promote your articles and provide takes on current events and journalism as a whole. It can feel like an impossible task, but here are some tools that will help any journalist effortlessly navigate social media in no time:
Hootsuite: A desktop and mobile application that allows Twitter users to queue posts and engage effectively. There’s a science to Twitter, and Hootsuite has several working parts: social streams that let you follow hashtags in real-time; a scheduler that allows users to release tweets at optimal times; analytics to give in-depth information about who views and engages with your tweets; and extensions allowing you to easily recreate content on several social media platforms.
Crowdfire: This is a client for Twitter and Instagram that will provide daily feedback reports on your activity. Crowdfire also hones in on inactive users that follow you or that you follow and assesses the “relationship between any two Twitter/Instagram accounts”—and “a whole lot more.”
IFTTT: A “recipe” platform for social media and beyond that allows users to get alerts from a bevy of sources. You can turn on applets, which are services that come with different websites and applications. The platform’s automation capabilities give users the ability to automatically post to social media (e.g., a certain time of day, in the case of breaking news from a publication, or if you use a certain hashtag on one platform).