The Backpack Journalism Project: Bearing Witness

Backpack Journalism at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska uses new media tools and relatively inexpensive video equipment to produce documentaries about people in developing countries and marginalized societies. The project is a collaboration of Creighton University College of Arts and Sciences’  Departments of Theology and Journalism, Media & Computing.

Led by theologian-documentary filmmaker John O’Keefe, visual artist-filmmaker Tim Guthrie and journalist Carol Zuegner, the professors work with a group of students in a five-week summer immersion course to produce mini-documentaries as well as blogs and other multimedia content. The teams have filmed stories in Uganda, the Dominican Republic, rural southwestern Alaska, and on the border between the United States and Mexico in Nogales, Arizona. The next project is tentatively set for a return to Uganda in 2018.

Students in the course earn six credit hours in theology and journalism while experiencing for a short time life in a challenging part of the world. The course includes a filmmaking bootcamp, two weeks immersed in the place and two weeks to produce a rough cut of the film.

The films — EsperanzaMato Oput,  Wer Uganda, Mother Kuskokwim, El Deportado and The Displaced — have won awards or have been screened at national and international film festivals.

Bearing witness is what journalism does at its best, telling the stories of people who are often marginalized or ignored. And bearing witness also gets to the heart of the Jesuit call in our time to “go to the margins” of society through service and action.