There’s a song by Ben Harper that has become the unofficial anthem of Backpack Journalism (yes, this is besides our dance songs like Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” with a close
second being Abba’s “Dancing Queen,” and the “Coyote” song.)
Harper’s song is called “Blessed to be a Witness.” It fits perfectly with our mantra that it is our responsibility as journalists and people to bear witness, to be men and women for and with others. From the terrific blogs written by these students, you can see how deeply they feel that imperative to bear witness. It is difficult. Bearing witness can shake what you’ve believed. Bearing w
itness can make you sad and uncomfortable. Bearing witness can mean you have tears rolling down your face as your listen to a young woman’s story of her migrant family and the responsibility she feels.
One of the best and worst parts of being a journalist is your closeness to tragedy and to joy and to everything in-between. What you learn can make you angry or frustrated or just happy.
The responsibility and joy of bearing witness comes home to me as I work with my colleagues and the terrific group of Backpack Journalism students here at the border between the United States and Mexico
. Their capacity to bear witness and their dedication to the task inspire me everyday.