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Backpack Journalism with Bill Gentile April 17, 2009

Posted by Lauren Oakley in symposium.
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Courtesy of AmericanObserver.net

Courtesy of AmericanObserver.net

Bill Gentile is an independent journalist and documentary film maker teaching at American University in Washington D.C. His career spans across three decades and over five continents pioneering what is now referred to as “backpack journalism.”

He has covered everything from prison life in a chain gang program to nursing shortages across the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. He began his career as a correspondent for UPI and a reporter for the Mexico City News in 1977. Since, he has worked independently across Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Backpack journalism is emerging as new model that can fill the void left by conventional media,” Gentile explains. “We are int he process of institutionalizing this new narrative style.”

Gentile talked about how digital cameras revolutionized television and visual communication. Journalism shifted to video in the mid 1990s because it was an expanding part of the business as multimedia journalism is today. Changing with the needs of journalism is very important which is why Gentile’s focus switched to video.

Gentile’s definition of backpack journalism is visual journalism that is done by a single practicioner to generate a more intimiate form of visual communication.

“It’s similar to citizen journalism, but a professional does everything and carries all of their equipment with them,” said an audience member.

Backpack journalism is better than the conventiaonl model, according to Gentile. When overseas, just holding a camera stops people in 3rd world countries to engage in the story.

“Video cameras engage the subjects because they feel they’re having a part in the storytelling process and narrative,” Gentile said.

This is what the future is about in journalism. It will be a new model and storytelling craft.

Gentile’s video packages.

Follow Gentile on Twitter.

Foreign Correspondence Network



1. Manu Srikumar - April 19, 2009

This post exactly comes at a moment when I have been thinking of using this model in India. Thanks, this gives me a lot of inspiration to start a business on these lines….And this can be broadened more to say ‘online video journalism’ is the future….

2. Bill Gentile - April 26, 2009


Especially in the area of foreign news coverage by U.S.-based journalists, backpack journalism is a rather compelling alternative. Conventional media just don’t have the muscle or the will anymore to send traditional teams abroad to cover important events or issues.

So, although technology and the Internet have had a negative impact on some, they have opened many new doors to others. They’ve democratized the field.

Good luck in your new endeavors.


Bill Gentile

3. Digital storytelling for social justice « aesthetically - February 16, 2010

[…] Bill Gentile’s Backpack Journalism blog may be helpful here,  as we delve into the world of grassroots journalism. As Bill Gentile explains, Backpack journalism is emerging as new model that can fill the void left by conventional media. […]

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