The idea of backpack journalism suddenly makes sense to me. As Al said, it emerged out of the 2007-2009 economic crisis. Millions of people, good people found themselves unemployed in what seemed like the blink of an eye. We all remember it. Freddie Mac was placed under the control of the federal government, Wells Fargo saved Wachovia, the country’s fourth-largest bank holding company…and we nearly lost The Globe. Let me say that again. We nearly lost The Globe.
You don’t go into journalism to get rich. Go be a doctor or a lawyer if that’s what you want. The hours are terrible and the pay is worse. You do it because you love it, plain and simple. If you don’t love it, you’ll suck at it. That’s the industry on a good day, so when the economy tanked it was all anyone could do just to keep the lights on. There was still news to report, but only a skeleton staff was left to report it. Everyone else was gone.
So being the creative souls that we are, we put literally put all those vacant jobs on our backs and headed out into a penniless world. In addition to being reporters, we were now thrust into the roles of editors, layout artists, videographers and online personnel. As Al pointed out on page 159, you’re by yourself out there. If something goes wrong, it’s up to you to fix it. The assignment desk isn’t there to hold your hand anymore. However, Al also mentioned that there are some perks that go along with backpack journalism. Because you’re working by yourself, you have the freedom to do things your own way. For example, you don’t have to rely on your cameraman (who didn’t want to come to work today to begin with) to get that nice, clean shot you need. No arguments, you’re the boss. As a result, stories are better and are available sooner. When you think about it like that, it’s nice to know that something good came out of that God-awful mess.