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Backpack Journalism

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Backpack or Multimedia Journalism

I was shoveling out some dirt while finding news outlets to zip off a few press releases to when I noticed something interesting:

A reporter that I was about to send a press release to went by the title of “Backpack Journalist.”
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Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Istanbul, Turkey- February 27, 2009
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“This sounds like an appropriate person to send a press release about a backpacker to,” I joked to myself. But the impression that this title left behind was a little stronger than a passing jest. I figured that a backpack journalist was just some feller who carried a bunch of junk around in his rucksack for the real journalist to use, but I was wrong:

A backpack or multimedia journalist is a reporter who travels to remote parts of the world, works alone, and does everything – writing, photography, video, editing, website construction – themselves and usually publishes on the internet.

“These journalists rely on lightweight laptops, satellite phones, inexpensive editing software and digital cameras — equipment that is a fraction of the cost and size of conventional, shoulder-mounted gear. They file video from some of the most remote spots on Earth, supplying material primarily to the Web, but occasionally to television.

“You get a connection, set up the camera, point it at yourself and just do it . . .” Backpack Journalist USA Today

I can do this. As I read a few web based articles on backpack journalism, I realized that there are other people doing exactly – almost – what I am moving towards doing. I now know that I am not making this stuff up. The only difference is that I am trying to do so without any notion of overhead support.

Backpack journalist gear

I possess a degree in Ethnographic Journalism, but I am 100% self taught. I never had a real writing class, I never had a proper journalism class, and I engaged in the bulk of my studies independently, just figuring out on my own what works and what doesn’t. This only means that I have not yet been pounded into any molds.

Dan at Cafe Abroad InPrint, a magazine that I published in for a year and a half and worked as editor for four months, taught me about journalism solely by treating me as a real journalist. I am the type of fellow who learns from impressions, trial and error, and figuring things out for myself. Dan laid his magazine out to me as a stage upon which I could play journalist.

I played the part, and liked it.

I write all day long. Sometimes I feel as if this rather excessive habit is going to kill me; sometimes I feel as if it is the only thing keeping me alive. These fallow words stamped out upon a screen keep me going, give me a reason to grasp and dig into the world around me. Writing words has become a lifestyle.

Searching for a map in a world of words.

“Over the next 20 years, if economic conditions don’t worsen and technological developments continue apace, the content of the newspaper and the television news shows are likely to be delivered principally over the Internet.”Online Journalism Review

“I think that if I keep working hard that I can make a living off of my website,” I told Chaya one morning.

“I am going to throw up,” was Chaya’s only reply.

She then ran to the bathroom and really did throw up.

As I listened to her puke hit the toilet water I was faced with the proposition that I may be attempting something ridiculous. So ridiculous, in fact, that it has the power to make another person sick.

This notion only strengthened my resolve.

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Backpack or Multimedia Journalism

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Filed under: Eastern Europe, Europe, Turkey

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3054 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Cincinnati, Ohio, USAMap