A journey to be different, authentic and above all versatile

by | Mar 27, 2015 | Opinion

Comfort Obeng

A&E editor


A story with no errors; eye catching photos; interviews with nearly impossible to connect with sources; audio and video to back the fact that you’ve actually spoken with them; and don’t forget to tweet about it, no pressure or anything. I still can’t believe I signed up for this three years ago.

People who are considered backpack journalists are responsible for photography, videography, producing stories, editing them and using social media as often as possible. I never would have thought I was capable of filling shoes like those but it all unexpectedly fell into place.

Growing up I wanted to be everything. I wanted to become a singer and so I sang at talent shows. Then I wanted to be an actress so I took  a film and television college course. It was fun until one of our assignments was to memorize a script and present it to the class. It wasn’t hard per se but it didn’t help that I was shy and hated being put on the spot.

So I continued on with dreams of becoming a writer. I tried writing a novel. It was fine at first but I slowly became bored. My parents wanted me to pursue practical nursing. Everyone in my school of 500 girls wanted to be a nurse. There was no way I was going to go through with it.

Turns out my fears of the insane amount of multitasking a backpack journalist life requires was related to my search for what I wanted to be.

Maybe it was a rushed decision but I’ve never regretted enrolling in j-school. I was the only graduate from Madonna Catholic Secondary School with dreams of becoming a journalist. For me it was all about being different and authentic.

Besides, I think I wanted to combine my passion for fashion (as cliché as it sounds) with my passion to write. I wanted to be a fashion journalist. The type that sat through fashion shows around the world with huge designer shades in the front row, hardly looking up from my iPhone. This was the ultimate dream. To have huge designers send me free clothes just so that I could be seen wearing them. To have my name everywhere like my idol Jeanne Beker.

Despite the epic arguments I went through with my parents they finally stopped fighting it. In their minds they thought me becoming a journalist meant I was “planning to run off to Syria and be taken hostage.” They didn’t understand that I wanted to write for fashion magazines.  For them the word journalist implied CNN, CTV, hard breaking news.

I came into the journalism program with only one thing on my mind: magazine class. I hated writing hard news because I’m not passionate about politics, business and crime. I wanted to write about something I was passionate about. So I interned at a fashion and beauty magazine which I loved every second of. I thought, “This is it. This is what I want to do. This is what I came here to do.”

But then my online class actually managed to pique my interest in news, although I hate the process of waiting on sources when you have such a short deadline. And I’ll always hate reporting horrible events. That will never change. But going to conferences and seeing other professional reporters in action, sharing the same camera space, and having similar footage as them was so exciting.

As ironic as it sounds I began to fall in love with everything I feared when I first thought about what journalism school would be like.

I think being in my first scrum did it for me. Having to learn about that moment and actually applying what I learned was exhilarating. I’ve done a lot of hard news stories that I was very passionate about.

Even before pitching a hard news story, someone would say I know you’re not into hard news but you have to know this. Now I find it annoying when people label me as only knowing one thing.

While I was out there covering these stories I realized how hard it is to do everything but also learned how rewarding it can be. I sent out tweets when on location and actually used all the skills I learned. You really have to juggle once you’re out there. There’s tremendous pressure to put your best work out there. Not to mention the pressure from mainstream news crews watching.

But like most things in life you expect one thing and end up getting something completely different. I came into the journalism program with dreams to become a fashion journalist. Now I know I have the ability to report any story any way I want whether it be text stories, video, photos, social media reports or multimedia. I’m no longer fearful, I’m versatile.