Thursday, June 4, 2009

Following the pack

By Jordan Mason

The Sports Journalism Institute (SJI) contains students hailing from nearly every corner of America. From Las Vegas, Nev., to East Orange, N.J.

But SJI is hardly the most geographically diverse program being held at the Poynter Institute this week.

The Backpack Journalist program that began Tuesday and ends Friday has SJI beat in that respect.

Canada. Denmark. Germany. Japan.

These are just a couple of the countries that the 21 reporters are travelling from to learn to write, report, photograph and edit video stories for online and broadcast stories.

And it is not unusual for reporters to travel that far to participate in Poynter programs.

Kenny Irby, visual journalism group leader and director of diversity, said that Backpack Journalists evolved from the Visual Edge program, which evolved from the Electronic Photojournalism workshop, both of which helped lead the way in the evolution of journalism.

“We’ve been a leader in the innovation steps,” he said. “I say that at the same time being fully aware of the fact that we’re not immune from the market factors that have impacted broadcast organizations and print publications.”

That is why Broadcast and Online Group Leader Al Tompkins said he is happy to lead the Backpack Journalist program this year. He said the growth of the industry technologically have preempted the need for these programs.

Irby agrees. “There is no room for the single-skill journalist anymore,” he said. “You have to have a secondary or even, better yet, a tertiary skill set.”

And reporters are willing to travel from all over the world to learn these skill sets.

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