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A backpack journalist is a person who goes on assignments, usually in remote locations, and is responsible not only for writing or otherwise delivering a story, but also for being a cameraman, producer, and editor for those stories. The backpack journalist is likely to travel via a variety of transportation methods, very often on foot, to reach remote locations where newsworthy events are taking place. This person often carries a laptop computer with him or her, as well as a digital camera capable of taking still shots and video, and a satellite phone.
A person who acts as a backpack journalist may find himself in dangerous situations where normal reporters and camera crews cannot access. It is likely that the backpack journalist will cover war zones or other areas of unrest, and in many cases, the journalist must cover rough terrain to reach a story. When he or she covers a story, that person is responsible for all aspects of the reporting, from the writing of the story to the delivery of it to a news outlet. This usually means the backpack journalist has a high level of control over the story, since he or she will not have access to an editor or producer who will otherwise guide the story.
As a result of the types of traveling the backpack journalist must do, he or she often tries to travel light. A laptop computer carried in a backpack is usually small and lightweight; cameras and audio equipment will be kept small and to a minimum, and satellite phones will also need to be compact and lightweight. Any items the journalist carries must be stowed in as little luggage as possible, and the luggage must be easy to carry and store.
Becoming a backpack journalist can be a useful career move for many reporters. Television news stations often prefer this style of reporting because it gives them a ratings edge over competitors, especially in Internet-based reporting. Employing such a journalist may also end up saving the news outlet money in the long run, since separate employees will not be necessary to operate cameras, produce the news segment, edit the story, and so on. The drawback to hiring such employees may be liability concerns; this type of journalism can be exceptionally dangerous in some situations, and the news organization must rely on the judgment of one person rather than several to produce quality reporting.