Hands on Scholastic Journalism for youth!

A Backpack Journalist

What is Cover the Assignment?

Cover the Assignment – is the A Backpack Journalist module that provides a “real life experience” for the youth after participating  in a workshop.  These experiences range from interviewing a Veteran or policy maker, to attending an event such as the Vietnam Veterans Education Fund dedication of THE EDUCATION CENTER or political rally.  Soon, “Backpack Journalists” will be attending the Inauguration, and visiting the “hill” and attending a briefing on National Security.

The youth reporter gathers and writes and then reports via print or our online.  A Backpack Journalist also distributes press releases to all media outlets, plus the Public Affairs offices of the military branches.  To date,  “Backpack Journalists” have been published in print in the USO Magazine, Military Spouse and also the US Army Aviation Magazine.  Via the web and also digitally, The Soldier Magazine, US ARMY.MIL and a host of other websites who support military and at-risk youth.  A simple Internet search via any of the engines will find hundreds of postings beyond our facebook.com/backpackjournalist and also this website.

The Foundation of Cover the Assignment:

The curriculum of A Backpack Journalist provides youth hands-on experience, combining the basics of Writing, Photo Journalism, Film Making, Songwriting, Broadcast Journalism, Poetry (cowboy and urban) gathering and reporting with the latest and greatest technology tools.

The core of the program helps youth develop their writing skills and expand their education, while enabling youth to find their “voice” and a means to express themselves.  Encouraging creative expression and building resilience and self esteem, through a variety of media applications has been shown to be successful in the workshops and trainings to date, and is one of the primary goals of A Backpack Journalist.

In public education today, CORE and STEM are the focus of educators across our nation.  The interesting news about “writing” is that without the ability to express one’s self, neither of these important curricula initiatives will provide any benefit to the student!  Check out the most recent assessment of our nation’s 8th-12th grade youths and their writing skills.  Only 25% of this group ranked within a positive  range on the NAEP, Computerized Writing Assessment test.  This report was released in September, 2012 and available to view at:


On becoming a Citizen Journalist:

An outcome of Cover the Assignment is evidenced in the the training that each participant receives in Social Media and the distribution of news via the Internet.  Each learns the importance of “truth” in reporting, and are introduced to career opportunities.  It is important to note that while each youth may not choose journalism as a career, each will be a skilled expressive writer or producer of content in a variety of technology based formats.

Youth also are encouraged to take part in advocacy programs that provide great benefit to themselves and others by simply “expressing their voice”.  Leadership programs such as the building of youth councils within a school or command/brigade/unit are also an evidenced outcome.

NEW FOR 2013:  News Literacy is defined and expanded.

Our COVER THE ASSIGNMENT module has since it’s beginning, the challenge to each youth participant to use their critical thinking skills to judge the reliability and credibility of those that they are interviewing or the facts that they are gathering from an event.

As our teachers and staff have worked side by side with each youth participant during the assignment, we learned that the one on one coaching by our teachers and staff that is “to seek and find fact based information” was providing a great impact on each youth.

Basically, the youth gained a clearer perspective on how the news is gathered and delivered in this digital world where there are no longer borders.  They learned how to gather and create fact-based articles or news.   Teaching how to listen and observe is a key component of our emphasis.  Each youth participant saw quickly how they could make an impact with the written power of their own words,  the importance of accuracy and in some cases find their own path to the advocacy for a social issue such as PTSD for example or working with at-risk youth.

 PTSD Won’t Stop Me – the music video, created, produced by A Backpack Journalist (found on line in our digital stories)

is one such example of an advocacy program that was developed as a result of this module.

Daniel Jones, a US Army Reserve Youth and “Christian Rapper”, performed in this video and it was supported by students and other Backpack Journalist Interns.

Please check out A Backpack Journalist – 2012-2013 Advocacy Programs on our website.


Hands on Scholastic Journalism for youth!
What is Cover the Assignment?