Ben Schneider

Prof. Walker

JRN 450

Where is VR’s Place in Journalism?

The argument that is currently stirring the pot in newsrooms across the country is all based around the new technology of virtual reality. Does it have any journalistic value? What are the benefits? What are the downsides? There are many variables that change depending on who you ask, but my goal here is to argue that there is absolutely journalistic potential in the realm of VR. Although it might not be necessary to utilize in every form of story telling, it absolutely adds an extra dimension to the story that readers otherwise wouldn’t experience. It can be used to put viewers in places or situations that they wouldn’t be able to be in normally, and that can create a new level of understanding for readers. The technology can be used to show desolate locations, show a story, put you in the story, etc.

However, there is definitely an argument that VR doesn’t have any journalistic value. Traditional media members would argue that it doesn’t enhance the story and in some cases it might even detract from the message of the story. News is meant to be informative and true, and in my opinion there are certain instances where VR technology could improve the “news experience” for the general audience.

I think as VR gains ground and continues to develop it will create more uses for it. Although some of them may not be journalistic, there will definitely be an added element of entertainment. Using VR to watch professional sporting events, press conferences, breaking news, etc. will all be possible and I think people will be happy to experience these events through VR. One of the problems now is that VR is an expensive investment, not to mention this is the very beginning stages and there is still a lot of room for improvement.

I got the experience to use a HTC Vive headset and I was impressed. I didn’t really expect it to feel as real as it did. For the demonstration, the “game” was to go up in an elevator and walk out onto a plank overlooking the city. I have a of heights in open space, so I figured this would be a great chance to try and face that fear, especially considering I didn’t really believe it would feel that real. But, with the headset on and the fan blowing and the headphones on, my brain was thoroughly convinced I was actually high up in the air.

One of the benefits of VR is it can break down the 4th wall that exists between the audience and the medium, whether it be television, a newspaper, or otherwise. It can give viewers a better idea of the scene in a first person perspective, rather than observing from the outside looking in. For example, the VR project done by the NYT called “The Displaced” demonstrated good examples of the value VR can bring. You actually feel like you’re meeting the refugees, and the experience becomes that much more interpersonal.

Another good example the New York Times did was a piece titled “The Fight for Falluja.”(LINK HERE ) This type of reporting can definitely be beneficial for the viewer. It puts you in the first person perspective, as if you’re actually there hearing and seeing the gunshots and people running. This bad example would be from The Daily Show clip we saw where CNN was using drone footage to show a bridge. Although drones aren’t VR its an example of the unnecessary showboating of new technology that doesn’t add any journalistic value to the news.

So, where is VR’s place in journalism? The answer isn’t so simple. VR’s place is wherever it is appropriate to include a new form of news sharing and will give viewers a more satisfying experience. Whether it be in places like Falluja, or a melting glacier in the artic, there are definitely places and stories that can benefit and improve by using VR.