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Virtual Reality Journalism : A new way of story telling

For filmmakers, virtual reality also presents a new way to tackle issues such as police brutality

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  • A virtual reality experience that places viewers inside a virtual segregation cell
  • Rather than just watching the action, virtual reality places viewers squarely in the middle of it
  • Virtual reality is quickly emerging as a tool in a journalist’s storytelling arsenal

To capture the experience of being imprisoned in a solitary confinement cell for their readers, editors at The Guardian newspaper collaborated with producers at The Mill, a virtual reality company, to create 6×9, a virtual reality experience that places viewers inside a virtual segregation cell.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1us-VbK9Ka0&feature=youtu.be

The resulting video is unnerving in its authenticity. Incorporating ambient sound and audio excerpts from interviews with former prisoners, viewers experience what is likely to be the closest encounter with solitary confinement that they will ever have, short of visiting prison themselves.

“It was an incredible experience, I was sweating and my heart was beating really fast and it was really upsetting. I found myself tearing up a little bit. … It was a very emotional, physical and mental experience,” said Emilia Petrarca, who watched 6×9 at the Tribeca Film Festival’s “Storyscapes” event in New York City.

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Storytelling tool

For journalists, virtual reality is quickly emerging as another tool in their storytelling arsenal.

“It’s about access,” said Francesca Panetta, special projects editor at The Guardian. “This is access to a space and to an environment that you wouldn’t normally have,” she added.

Rather than just watching the action, virtual reality places viewers squarely in the middle of it. News organizations such as The New York Times and USA Today are discovering it’s a powerful medium for storytelling.

“It just opens the door to another level of immersion outside of just traditional filmmaking and just creates another level of sympathy as well, and empathy for the viewer,” said Jared Vladich, visual effects producer at The Mill.

Picture of the virtual segregation cell.
Picture of the virtual segregation cell. Image source: VOA

For filmmakers, virtual reality also presents a new way to tackle issues such as police brutality.

In “Perspective 2: The Misdemeanor,” viewers experience a violent police confrontation from the perspectives of both cop and civilian.

“You see a heated topic happen from one person’s eyes, sort of build empathy for that character, and then you see it from another person’s eyes,” said Morris May, CEO of Specular Theory, the company behind the film. Filming multiple perspectives required a day’s worth of repeated takes, during which the line between reality and fiction began to blur.

“People thought this accident was actually happening, so we have extras in the film that came by with their cellphones and started filming, not even realizing that this was a film shoot because there’s no camera visible and there’s no film crew visible at all,” May said.

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Generating revenue

In addition to the tricky mechanics of filming, virtual reality productions can be cost-prohibitive.

The Guardian‘s Panetta said, “For journalism, it’s quite expensive. So for a newspaper, which is an industry that its financial model is still being questioned, it’s a very expensive medium.”

At The New York Times, editors have found that partnering with advertisers is one way to generate income on virtual reality projects.

“We think there’s a good business here. Virtual reality is a powerful way to tell stories for journalists, but it’s also become a powerful way for brands to tell their stories,” said Sam Dolnick, associate editor at the Times.

The company has partnered with clients like Tag Heuer and Mini to create virtual-reality experiences that target Times readers.

“We think there’s a potential around virtual reality becoming some kind of premium offer, and whether that’s for subscribers, a new paywall, we’re experimenting, we’re thinking about it,” Dolnick added.

The New York Times has given away more than 1 million basic Google Cardboard viewers to subscribers. A recent virtual-reality experience transported viewers to the top of One World Trade Center with National Geographic photographer Jimmy Chin, for breathtaking views of New York City.

With the new era demanding more from its people,the long-term profitability of virtual reality remains to be seen, and the new medium has journalists and filmmakers pushing the boundaries of storytelling.

-by Newsgram staff with inputs from VOA

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    Journalism can go even more further! This is one of the biggest discoveries journalism can have. The virtual reality should be encouraged even outside US

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Akayed Ullah, the Bangladeshi suspect in New York bombing described as cocky and weird

Recently a bombing had occurred in the Time Square of New York city and a Bangladeshi has been suspected in the bombing who lived in New York for 7 years.

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Law enforcement officials in New York City work after a bomb blast near Times Square, Dec. 11, 2017
Law enforcement officials work following an explosion near New York's Times Square on Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, in New York. Police said a man with a pipe bomb strapped to him set off the crude device in an underground passageway under 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)
  • The bomb blast occurred on December 11, 2017 in New York
  • Akayed Ullah, a Bangladeshi has been suspected the cause for the bomb blast
  • The suspect has been described as cocky and weird

New York, December 12, 2017: Neighbors described a Bangladeshi man suspected of setting off a bomb Monday near New York’s Times Square as “cocky” and “weird,” but were surprised to hear he was involved in what local authorities called an “attempted terrorist attack.”

The suspect and three other people were injured in the explosion during the morning rush-hour in an underground subway passage about 200 feet from a busy bus terminal in Manhattan, officials said.

Authorities arrested Akayed Ullah, a 27-year-old Brooklyn resident, after he allegedly detonated an improvised explosive device that was strapped to his body, New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill said.

The explosion left Ullah “with burns and wounds to his body” and injured three others, officials said.

“He wasn’t very nice. He was kind of cocky,” Ullah’s longtime neighbor, Alan Butrico, told BenarNews. “He was often blocking my driveway.”

Butrico, owner of a locksmith and hardware in Brooklyn’s Flatlands neighborhood, said he was Ullah’s next-door neighbor for about seven years.

“I would ask him to move the car whenever he was blocking my driveway and he would react like he was giving me a favor,” Butrico said.

But Butrico, who lived in the neighborhood for 27 years, said he was surprised to hear that Ullah, whom he described as a former cab driver and electrician, was involved in a terrorist attack.

“I’m glad he didn’t blow up my store,” Butrico said. “I’m glad he went to Manhattan.”

The bomb exploded at around 7:20 a.m. (local time) in a subway corridor on 42nd Street, between 7th and 8thavenues, police said.

“This device was intentionally detonated by the subject,” O’Neill, the police commissioners, said in a statement posted on the New York Police Department’s (NYPD) Twitter page.

Three people in the immediate area suffered minor injuries and the suspect, who suffered severe burns, was placed in custody and transported to a hospital, O’Neill said. Fire officials said Ullah had burns to his hands and abdomen.

A photo published by the New York Post showed a bearded man crumpled on the ground with his shirt apparently blown off and black soot covering his bare midriff.

“Let’s be also clear this was an attempted terrorist attack. Thank God the perpetrator did not achieve his ultimate goals,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters. “The only injuries we know at this point were minor.”

Kat Mara, who works at a real-estate company near Ullah’s home, said the Bangladeshi suspect was “very aloof.”

“He’s like a loner, like there’s always something in his mind,” Mara, 63, told BenarNews, saying that she often saw Ullah at a bagel store across the street from her office.

“He’s very aloof,” she said. “I would say hello and he wouldn’t say anything. He just seemed a little weird.”

No criminal record in Bangladesh

In Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, Police Inspector-General A.K.M. Shahidul Hoque said Ullah had no criminal record in Bangladesh and that he last visited his home country on Sept. 8.

Hoque told the Reuters news service that the information was based on Ullah’s passport number, and said the suspect was from the southern Bangladeshi district of Chittagong.

New York daily newspapers, quoting unnamed law-enforcement sources, said Ullah arrived in the United States from Bangladesh on Sept. 21, 2011 on an F-4 Visa, which is for siblings of American citizens. He is currently a permanent resident, according to officials.

Shamim Ahmad, a spokesman at Bangladesh’s embassy in Washington, did not confirm to BenarNews during a phone interview that Ullah was a Bangladeshi.

Consular officials in New York were awaiting an official report from the NYPD, Ahmad said.

He later on issued a statement saying that the Bangladesh government “is committed to its declared policy of ‘zero tolerance’ against terrorism, and condemns terrorism and violent extremism in all forms or manifestations anywhere in the world, including Monday morning’s incident in New York City.”

“A terrorist is a terrorist irrespective of his or her ethnicity or religion, and must be brought to justice,” the statement said.

Ullah lived with his father, mother and brother and worked as a driver in New York for a few years until his license lapsed in 2015, officials said. Neighbors said he lived with his family on the first floor of a two-story home.

New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill holds a news conference outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan with Mayor Bill de Blasio (left) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, after a pipe-bomb strapped to a man exploded in a crowded subway corridor near Times Square, Dec. 11, 2017. [AP]
New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill holds a news conference outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan with Mayor Bill de Blasio (left) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, after a pipe-bomb strapped to a man exploded in a crowded subway corridor near Times Square, Dec. 11, 2017. [AP]
Six weeks, two terrorist incidents

Monday’s bombing occurred nearly six weeks after a deadly terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan.

A man killed eight people and injured a dozen others as he drove a pickup truck down a bicycle path near the World Trade Center on Oct. 31. An officer shot and wounded the suspect.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the suspect, identified as a 29-year-old Uzbek, Sayfullo Habibullaevic Saipov, was indicted last month on murder and terror-related charges.

John Miller, the New York Police Department’s deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism, said authorities had thwarted 26 terrorist plots in New York since Sept. 11, 2001.

“We have prevented a significant number of plots,” Miller told reporters Monday.

“Your intel operations are looking for indicators,” he said. “They don’t have an X-ray for a man’s soul.”

The blast on Monday also happened two months after U.S. authorities accused a 37-year-old Filipino doctor of providing funds to support a foiled plot last year to carry out bombings and shootings in crowded areas in New York City, including the subway system and in Times Square.

Russell Salic, a surgeon, was arrested in April 2017 in the Philippines and is awaiting extradition to the United States. Authorities said those thwarted attacks were to be carried out by the suspects under the name of the extremist group Islamic State during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan last year.

Akayed Ullah
Akayed Ullah [Reuters]
Kazi Nishat Tarana, a Bangladeshi living in New York, told BenarNews she was shocked to hear reports that the suspect in Monday’s explosion could be a Bangladeshi.

“I want to say very clearly, he doesn’t represent Bangladesh,” she said. “The people of our country is peace loving and this man no way is influenced by our great tradition of peace and harmony. We are deeply upset. I hope no Bangladeshi student or immigrant will be judged differently after this incident.”

In Dhaka, Sohaili Ferdous, an assistant inspector general of police, said the department would investigate any possible ties between the latest New York attack and Bangladesh.

“Right now, we cannot give information about him. We have to check with our database whether he had any militant or criminal background,” Ferdous told BenarNews.

Kamran Reza Chowdhury in Dhaka contributed to this report. (BenarNews)

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Journalist Killing Protest Creates Chaos, Leads to Shutdown in Tripura

Many activists of different political parties were injured in clashes as the BJP, Congress and other parties called a shutdown on Thursday to protest the killing of a journalist by a Tripura State Rifles (TSR) trooper

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Journalist killing
Journalist killing leads to clashes in Tripura. IANS.

Agartala, Nov 23: Many activists of different political parties were injured in clashes while normal life was hit in Left ruled Tripura as the BJP, Congress and other parties called a shutdown on Thursday to protest the killing of a journalist by a Tripura State Rifles (TSR) trooper.

“Around 25 activists of different political parties including BJP and CPI-M were injured following the clashes in various places across Tripura,” a police official said.

Police said around 600 activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other parties were arrested for picketing in front of government offices in different parts of the state.

Most of the government, semi-government, private offices, educational institutions, shops and business establishments were closed due to the strike called by the BJP, the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura.

Banks and financial institutions were also closed in view of the shutdown, which was opposed by the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) led Left Front.

All vehicles, except those of security forces, went off the roads. The bandh did not affect flights and train services in and out of Tripura.

“The strike was successful and spontaneous,” state BJP President Biplab Kumar Deb said.

Security forces led by senior police officials have been deployed across the state to prevent any untoward incident.

According to police, TSR Second Battalion Rifleman Nandu Kumar Reang shot dead Sudip Datta Bhowmik, 50, at Radha Kishore Nagar, 25 km from Agartala, following an altercation on Tuesday. Reang was the bodyguard of Second Battalion Commandant Tapan Debbarma. The slain journalist had gone to meet Debbarma at the battalion headquarters.

Police have arrested both the trooper and the Commandant. The Chief Judicial Magistrate here sent the duo to 10 days in police custody.

The state government, which has handed over the case to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), also constituted a four-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the incident.

Bhowmik, who was a reporter with “Syandan Patrika” and television channel “Vanguard”, is survived by his wife, a government teacher, and two children.

Most of the local newspapers left their editorial blank on Thursday with a thick black border to register their strong protest over the killing.

Numerous theories and claims have surfaced regarding the reason behind the journalist’s killing, the second incident involving a media man in the state. Earlier, 28-year-old TV reporter Santanu Bhowmik was hacked to death while covering an event of a tribal party at Mandai in western Tripura on September 20.

“Syandan Patrikaa” editor and Tripura Newspaper Society President Subal Kumar Dey alleged that his reporter was targeted by the commandant as the former had written many stories against him in the newspaper.

“It was a pre-planned cold-blooded assassination and they tried to hide the body to destroy evidence. Bhowmik was killed as he had exposed the TSR commandant’s illegal acts,” Dey told the media.

Police, however, claim Bhowmik had stolen an envelope containing a huge amount of money or some confidential documents from Debbarma’s table while the latter was in the toilet after their meeting in the office chamber.

Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy, who is now in Delhi, has said that he will submit a report to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Bhowmik’s killing.

With the state Assembly polls due in February, the journalist’s murder has heated up the political atmosphere in the Left ruled state.

The ruling CPI-M criticised the BJP for politicising the killing of the journalist.

“The ‘bandh’ called by BJP is totally undemocratic. It would hamper normal lives and especially the annual examinations started in schools and ongoing revision of electoral rolls for the next Assembly elections,” CPI-M Central Committee member Gautam Das said.

The Congress has demanded a high-level inquiry into the murder. The BJP has demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Manik Sarkar.

Various journalists organisations in the northeast including the Tripura Working Journalists Association, Tripura Journalists Union (TJU) and the Agartala Press Club have also denounced the killing and demanded a probe.

The TJU has also demanded the resignation of the state Home Minister, a portfolio held by Sarkar. (IANS)

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Manhattan attack proves all you need is a vehicle, a crowd and a will to kill to be a Terrorist ; Here is how Twitter reacted

Various American news channels have since run chilling NYPD audio that was recorded as the entire scene unfolded. In one of the recordings, an officer can be heard reporting multiple casualties and calling it a “mass-casualty situation”.

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A Home Depot truck which struck down multiple people on a bike path, killing several and injuring numerous others is seen as New York City first responders are at the crime scene in lower Manhattan in New York, NY, Oct. 31, 2017.VOA

New York, November 1, 2017 : A man in a Home Depot rental truck sped for nearly a mile along the Hudson river in lower Manhattan, injuring more than a dozen people, and then shouting “Allahu Akbar”.

The man held responsible for the Manhattan attack, identified as Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old immigrant from Uzebkistan drove a rental truck into a pedestrian and bike path in New York City and went on until the truck rammed into a school bus.

According to a report by the New York Post, Saipov was shot and wounded by the New York Police after he got out of his car with realistic-looking guns, all while screaming “Allahu Akbar” – Arabic which means God is Good.

The Manhattan attack, which unfolded at a close proximity to the World Trade Center has killed eight people and injured at least 11 civilians, which includes three children, who were immediately rushed to local hospitals.

According to briefing by the New York police, six of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene while two victims perished at the hospital.

ALSO READ New York terror attack: 8 dead, suspect in custody (Third Lead)

Various American news channels have since run chilling NYPD audio that was recorded as the entire scene unfolded.

In one of the tapes obtained by CBS, a police officer can be heard saying, “There’s multiple people on the ground, Central. We need buses all the way up to Houston [Street], Central.’’

In another recording, an officer can be heard reporting multiple casualties and calling it a “mass-casualty situation”.

Twitter was quick to react to the slaughter-attack as the hashtags #ManhattanAttack and #NewYork continue to trend. Here is what Twitterati has to say,

While at one end, some Twitter users maintain that an attack by an individual must not fetch backlash for an entire community, some social activists believe otherwise.

The Manhattan attack has also been condemned by India as various news portals and individuals tweeted about the same, expressing grief and concern. ‘India stands by United States’, read a tweet by Indian President, Ram Nath Kovind.

Security is of prime importance; this concern was reflected in multiple tweets from people around the world.

 

Twitter users were quick to point out differences between the Manhattan attack and the Las Vegas shooting.

Such actions are intended to break the spirit of a city, but New Yorkers are strong and resilient. However, that does not mean the attack should be overlooked or dealt with leniently.

US President Donald Trump strongly condemned the attack and took to Twitter to voice his stand – he announced that such acts will not be tolerated in the US and Homeland security will look into it.

The method of the Manhattan attack mimics other ISIS-directed and inspired attacks that have previously occurred in different countries like the attacks in Nice, London and France.

These attacks are difficult to prevent as it is difficult for authorities to know if an individual will ram a vehicle into a crowd of innocent civilians.

However, due to the ease of its execution, these types of attacks are being increasingly carried out in recent years. After all, all you need is a truck, a car or a van, a crowd of people and a will to kill.