Backpack Journalism at Creighton University is a collaboration between the Theology Department and the Journalism, Media, & Computing Department. It came about because of a theologian interested in social justice and filmmaking and a journalist and an artist interested in filmmaking and social justice.
Each summer, a small group of students travels to a community in search of a story. Led by professors Dr. John O’Keefe, Tim Guthrie, and Carol Zuegner, the students immerse themselves in the communities, interviewing, filming, recording, and writing. When they return to Creighton, they take the stories they have collected and develop them into a short documentary film. The Backpack Journalism documentaries have been accepted at several film festivals, including the Omaha Film Festival. The class has traveled to such far-flung places as the Dominican Republic and Uganda, Bethel Alaska and Nogales Arizona/Sonora. The next project is tentatively planned for Northern Uganda in 2018.
As the two white Creighton vans pulled out of the McGloin parking lot this morning, it was and still is difficult for me to fully comprehend what’s ahead. Nothing is ever what you expect it to be. This past week has been amazing and surprising and I’ve learned so much but we’ve only scratched the surface.
A big part of me still can’t believe I’m lucky enough to be doing this. It’s an interesting juxtaposition: I have an amazing opportunity to capture people’s lack of opportunity. In my first ever college journalism class, the first thing my teacher emphasized to us was the centrality of storytelling in journalism. Ever since then, I’ve been obsessed with this idea of long-form, narrative journalism. In my first ever Creighton class, my theology teacher emphasized to the class the importance of using your degree for social justice. That is also something that has stuck with me. That’s why I find it so incredibly humbling to use the power of storytelling to hopefully do some good in the world.
It’s scary to be actually moving forward with this work because it’s something that I care so much about doing in the long-term. It’s also incredibly exciting. I feel confident in what I’ve learned so far, but I’m definitely nervous about applying this knowledge in a real and meaningful way.
Hello to anyone reading this blog! My name is Catherine Morehouse, I’m a rising junior here at Creighton, and I’m double majoring in Journalism, News Track and International Relations.
I’m so, so excited for the opportunity to go on this incredible trip! The first time I ever heard about the journalism backpacking program was when I was actually a first semester freshman at Boston University. I was pretty sure I wanted to transfer and pretty sure Creighton was the school I wanted to transfer to. It had originally been my first choice school, but a variety of factors had led me away from that direction and towards the east coast instead.
The main factor that had led me to BU was the strength of their journalism program, and my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t have good opportunities to pursue journalism if I decided to switch to a school that wasn’t necessarily known for its journalism program. However, after looking into the backpacking program, as well as other aspects of Creighton’s journalism department, I realized Creighton had plenty of opportunity for me to get involved and do really cool things as a journalism student. The backpacking trip really intrigued me though, and was something I was really hoping to have the opportunity to get involved with.
Flash forward 1.5 years later and here I am at the best department at the best school on earth! I’m so happy to be here and to have this incredible opportunity. I feel like I have so much learning ahead of me in the next few weeks and I am beyond excited to see where we get at the end of it all!
Preparing to go abroad is a long process, but Claire Storey has memorized it. She goes abroad once almost every year.
She’s been to a dozen countries, not to mention various states. Bethel, Alaska is considered a close destination.
Storey sat outside of the Immaculate Conception Church in Bethel on a Thursday afternoon and tried to list all of the countries she’s visited as Scott Prewitt, an adventurer who would love to travel the world, listened.
“I could probably name them all,” she said. “South Africa…”
“I hate you,” Prewitt whispered. South Africa was just the beginning of the long list.
“Wait, I have to think about this in order, if I can,” she replied. “South Africa, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, England, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Canada, Mexico. Did I already say Germany? Italy.”
She laughed as Prewitt glared at her. She added, “And pretty much everywhere in the Netherlands. I think that’s it.”
Storey has been on many family vacations. Like every tourist, she brought along a digital camera on every trip. Snapping pictures at a very early age and watching her mother take up photography as a hobby, she grew to love photography as much as her mother does.
“There were always interesting things to take pictures of,” Storey said, reflecting on her traveling experiences. “From a fairly young age I had a digital camera that I could take pictures with so I would just take lots of pictures.”
“My paranoid mind is like, ‘I’m going to go to some employer that went to Creighton and knows all about Creighton and was like ‘Oh, did you go on the Backpack Journalism program?’”
Saying no to that question was a big fear of Storey’s, so she signed up for the program and packed her bags for yet another adventure.
Instead of bringing her digital camera, she brought her professional camera and took her photography skills to the next level during the experience.
She had always naturally adopted the rule of thirds, the theory that the eye will gravitate toward an object of interest that is placed at an intersection point when the image is split into thirds. However, she had struggled with setting the aperture, which controls the brightness of an image, and exposure in the manual mode of the camera.
“I took the Video and Photojournalism class and then I took the Digital Video class and then I came on this trip,” Storey explained. “I knew the information from the first two classes but it wasn’t really until we were practicing for this trip that I realized that it was really clicking into place and I knew what I was doing.”
Although photography has always been a passion of Storey’s, she’s hoping to one day have a position at a publishing house.
“I’m studying photojournalism and I’m studying news journalism, but really what I have been able to see myself doing for a long time is being in some sort of editing of novels, like young adult novels,” she said.
She explained that a lot of people ask her why she didn’t major in English if she wants to edit novels one day.
Storey knew that if she were to major in English, she’d have to specialize in creative writing in order to edit novels, and at some point or another she’d have to write her own creative story.
“I basically have an inability to come up with a concept in my mind for a creative story idea and develop my own story, but I’m really good at helping other people flush out and develop and edit their stories,” she explains.
So she chose to explore photojournalism and news journalism to keep multiple windows of opportunity open and to develop her enjoyment of both skills.
“Photojournalism is something that I really enjoy so I think it’s a good skill to develop for myself to open up as a possible career,” she explained.
Even if Storey gets her dream job editing young adult novels at a publishing house, photography will always be a passion of hers.
At the rate she travels, she may have photographs from every country on the globe by the time she puts her camera down for good.