Is immersive journalism a path to empathy?

Our personal weekly selection about journalism and innovation. Join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

edited by Marco Nurra


Internet abuse and trolling

A troll, or more specifically a cyber troll, is commonly described as a person who intentionally posts provocative messages to cause arguments or disruptions. The term has come to be applied broadly to a range of online behaviors, from those that are provocatively contrarian to others that are criminally menacing. Trolls may target specific individuals and they may stand out in a virtual crowd or operate like a mob, tearing apart anyone whose views, appearance, or attitude they don’t like. […]

Though the impact and prevalence of Internet abuse and trolling is increasingly well documented and aired in public forums, less is known about those who engage in it and why. The anonymity and fluidity of social media, and the fact that trolls come in many shapes and sizes, make it hard to pin down an archetype. “It’s really important to remember that underneath all their abuse, trolls are complex human beings just like the rest of us,” noted Claire Hardaker, a linguist at Lancaster University who has written extensively on trolls. “They can be women in their twenties, men in their twenties, or thirties, or sixties — mothers, fathers, privately educated, or from any walk of life at all.” [CPJ]

When the Committee to Protect Journalists first started reporting on journalists and sexualized violence in 2011, it found a lot of women who’d never spoken about what they’d been through. The climate for those discussions has changed with CPJ’s latest report. The 2016 edition of “Attacks on the Press,” CPJ’s annual report on worldwide press freedom, offers essays and reports on gender violence from around the world, according to an introductory letter from Executive Director Joel Simon. […]

“As more journalists speak out about these hidden abuses, CPJ is better able to document the violations. This means more data that will help us understand the nature and scope of the problem. In 2016, CPJ will make a more concerted effort to document incidents of sexualized violence and tag them on our website.” [Poynter / Kristen Hare]


Virtual Reality and 360°: a path to empathy

The Guardian took the wrapper off its first-ever VR project this week, an exploration of solitary confinement and its effects on the prisoner’s psyche. 6×9 A Virtual Experience of Solitary Confinement is the fruit of nine months’ labor — and is just the first of many more to come. […] “VR is no fad. It will be even more important in a year’s time,” said Aron Pilhofer, The Guardian’s executive editor of digital. “We [publishers] are all trying to figure out where it fits in our overall video strategies, but we know it will be a bigger and bigger part of what we do.” [Digiday / Jessica Davies]

In March 2016 VRT-journalist Jen Franssen and his news team returned to Syria. This is something he has done every year since the war broke out. For the first time, he also took a VR or 360° camera with him. Ryad’s War Oil is a report made using this 360°-camera. [VRT Nieuws]

In May, The New York Times will send Google Cardboard viewers to 300,000 digital-only subscribers who were chosen “based on the duration of their subscriptions,” according to a press release. [Poynter / Kristen Hare]


Content, platforms, and distribution channels

Search and social platforms long ago captured the advertising market, not because of content but because they knew how to build and segment audiences, and they knew how to build useful tools for advertisers. News organisations did neither well. News organisations thought they were content companies, and discovered too late that they needed to be technology companies. Social media companies thought they were technology companies, and are discovering they need to be content companies. [Thoughts On Journalism / Paul Bradshaw]

Is Facebook the new RSS? Vox Media’s tech site The Verge is trying something that might answer that question: It’s launching a gadget “blog,” Circuit Breaker, that will live primarily as a Facebook page, with posts appearing in the Instant Articles format. [Nieman Lab / Laura Hazard Owen]

Among the most defining characteristics of BuzzFeed’s strategy is the way their content reaches readers: the vast majority is distributed through channels other than their website. The publication often cites the fact that their teams publish content to over 30 platforms, across 11 countries, in seven languages. This led us to ask which platforms are they actively using and what does this fragmented paradigm actually look like in practice. [Naytev / Zack Liscio]


The blackmail of the distributed media economy

The rush of publishers to embrace distributing media across platforms rather than relying mostly on people coming to their owned properties rests on a basic assumption: The business model will follow. But that’s easier said than done. [Digiday / Lucia Moses]

Not all publishers are created equal. Outside of the marquee publishers that platforms like Facebook and Google still feel the need to court, most publishers are left on the outside looking in, without much of a say in the direction of these initiatives. The tectonic shifts to platforms no less affects the little guy than the big guy, but that doesn’t mean the little guy gets a say. [Digiday / Lucia Moses]

Video will not save your media business. Nor will bots, newsletters, a “morning briefing” app, a “lean back” iPad experience, Slack integration, a Snapchat channel, or a great partnership with Twitter. All of these things together might help, but even then, you will not be saved by the magical New Thing that everyone else in the media community is convinced will be the answer to The Problem. [Joshua Topolsky]

Social Video: who win? Aggregators vs creators

In the Facebook era, a page run by a handful of people can become, almost literally, an overnight video juggernaut. It also points to the murkiness and ephemera of Facebook video. The truth of these video juggernauts is much of the content that gains those millions views isn’t created by them. That’s not to say it’s stolen — although some of it is, according to content creators — but for now, Facebook tends to favor aggregators of other people’s content. [Digiday / Sahil Patel]

Very few people, relatively speaking, are capable of regularly creating compelling videos that others want to watch. And as social platforms look to saturate their feeds with video — live or otherwise — rather than just pictures and text, they’re essentially competing for the same limited set of good videos. So those who create the ​quality​ stuff can demand payment.

In recent weeks, those payments have begun flowing. Twitter and Facebook both started handing out multimillion-dollar wads of cash to bring quality video content to their platforms. Twitter announced earlier this month that it would spend millions to stream 10 NFL games during the 2016 NFL season. And Facebook is offering six-figure checks to celebrities who agree to use its live-streaming product. […]

At Facebook’s F8 developer conference this year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that in a decade, “video will look like as big of a shift in the way we all share and communicate as mobile has been.” And though Zuckerberg is setting up a product to spark more video creation from regular folks (Live), he’s likewise ensuring it will be more attractive to professionals by paying them and expanding the cameras from phone cameras to professional-grade equipment. [BuzzFeed News / Alex Kantrowitz]

Facebook is still a social network, certainly. The company is quick to point out that, while many of its users now mostly share and engage with articles, photos, and videos produced elsewhere, there are still a vast number who use the site to socialize. And Facebook isn’t about to push them to do otherwise. [Slate / Will Oremus]


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