What You Owe your Backpack Journalists

backpAgain, Poynter’s Jill Geisler reveals what those in the newsroom think about those who lead them. In What News Managers Owe Their Backpack Journalists she shares what we managers need to do.

Want to start a fight? Gather a random assortment of broadcast journalists together and ask them their feelings about backpack journalists, aka “VJs” or “One man band” reporters.

You’ll hear proponents insist that today’s growing cadre of VJs is the inevitable result of smaller, user-friendly technology that can empower journalists and improve journalism. Opponents will argue that the increasing number of outlets transitioning to the one-person-does-it-all model is driven by profit motives and will harm journalism, journalists and viewers.

My position: both sides can be right — or wrong — depending on the smarts and the strategies of the newsroom managers who develop and deploy VJs. This is a classic example of change management, a major shift in an organization’s culture and the systems that underpin it. Leaders need to understand the multiple dynamics at play in a VJ transition: cultural, educational, practical and ethical.


Editor’sNote: I’ve twice worked with Jill/Poynter and both times the experience was an epiphany. At least, once in your career you should attend a Poynter seminar.

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