This spring break, the Murrow College of Communication 2023 Backpack Journalism expedition travels to Nairobi, Kenya where students will report on the work of researchers and related topics from the Paul G. Allen School for Global Health in the College of Veterinary Medicine. Working independently, Murrow students will investigate and cover issues related to emerging infectious diseases, the progress made on understanding of them, and research and global health initiatives in the region.
Backpack Journalism is an annual program that selects four Murrow College students to travel on an international expedition, where they are expected to research and produce a publishable work upon their return. To qualify, top applicants are interviewed after submitting a variety of essays and examples of their work that demonstrate excellence in multimedia journalism. With costs fully provided for by generous donors, the program has sent students to Nepal, Argentina, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Serbia and other locations.
“This program is a fantastic chance for students to gain international journalism experience that gives them a competitive edge in the job market, but it also lets them personally experience different cultures and the challenges they face,” said Scholarly Assistant Professor Alison Boggs, coordinator of global programs for Murrow College. “This is an opportunity for some of our best students to put into practice everything they’ve learned.”
Students chosen this year include senior multimedia journalism major Nicholas Gibson, senior broadcast journalism major Damien Alvarado, senior broadcast journalism major Alfonso Valdivia, and junior multimedia journalism and criminal justice double-major Josie Goodrich. Throughout the spring semester, they met on a weekly basis to plan the journey, develop story ideas, conduct advance interviews and prepare for the logistics of the trip.
As part of this process, Alvarado identified a related story about WSU’s growing relationship with international academic institutions. His work resulted in a Murrow News 8 feature on President Kirk Schulz’s recent trip to Kenya to discuss a joint Ph.D. program with the University of Nairobi. Together, the Murrow College and College of Veterinary Medicine demonstrate how such programs provide students with remarkable educational experiences that serve both the world and the development of their own careers.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for the Allen School and the Murrow Backpack Journalism Program,” said Tom Kawula, the school’s director. “Students will get firsthand access to WSU Global Health-Kenya researchers and their programs, and we look forward to more stories that result from their journalistic endeavors.”
Over the past 10 years students have published their resulting work in Spokane, Washington media outlets, including The Spokesman-Review, KHQ and KXLY, along with Telemundo, on journalism think-tank, the Poynter Institute’s website and elsewhere. One student broadcast report in 2019 won a national student reporting award from the Society of Professional Journalists.