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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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According to a Survey, 3 in 5 Indian Journalists Face Threats

At least four journalists were killed in India in 2019 due to work-related issues

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Journalists
The results suggest that Journalists face physical, psychological and emotional risks because of many factors like sharp division of ideology among citizens, high voltage political situations etc. Pixabay

About three in five Journalists in India receive threats or pressure at some point of time, mostly through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter as well as private messaging app like WhatsApp, said a survey on Friday.

Of those who faced threats/harassment, 35 per cent believe that they were targeted because of the angle or the way a story was reported by them.

While 29 per cent of the overall respondents disclosed that they received threats once in a year, 19 per cent of the respondents received threats several times a month, showed the results of the survey conducted by Vision Foundation in association with the National Union of Journalists (India).

Out of those who were threatened, around 46 per cent respondents claimed that social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook were the medium, followed by 17 per cent respondents who were threatened via private messaging apps like WhatsApp/Message.

On the other hand, 76 per cent journalists said that either no safety protocol existed in their organisations or that they were not trained for safety issues.

At least four journalists were killed in India in 2019 due to work-related issues.

The “Threats to Safety of Journalists in India” survey involved 823 media professionals, out of which approximately 21 per cent were female.

The results suggest that journalists face physical, psychological and emotional risks because of many factors like sharp division of ideology among citizens, high voltage political situations, impunity for crime against journalists and ethical dimensions of journalism, among others.

Journalists
About three in five Journalists in India receive threats or pressure at some point of time, mostly through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter as well as private messaging app like WhatsApp, said a survey on Friday. Pixabay

Ensuring accuracy of news published (74 per cent), followed by reporting exclusive news (13%) and being the first one to publish news (11 per cent) seem to be the top three priorities of the media organisations in which the respondents work, the study revealed.

When asked about the biggest challenge faced by the journalism sector in the 21st century, 33 per cent pointed to increasing attacks on freedom of press, followed by 21 per cent respondents who felt that fake/paid news was the biggest challenge.

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Social networking sites and influencers bypassing traditional media was cited as a challenge by 18 per cent respondents. (IANS)