Introducing Journalism 360: An Immersive News Initiative

This past year, we’ve seen a steady increase in the number of journalists experimenting with immersive storytelling to tell important stories in new ways. At both the Google News Lab and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, we’ve helped journalists explore both the opportunities and challenges of this evolving form of journalism. At the Google News Lab, we’ve partnered with the Guardian and Berliner Morgenpost on award-winning VR projects. At Knight Foundation, we’ve funded experiments that include a collaboration between Frontline and Emblematic Group, newsroom tools at the University of Texas at Austin, and student projects in a virtual reality journalism class led by Professor Robert Hernandez at the University of Southern California.

These early projects have demonstrated the promise of this new form of journalism as well as significant technical, storytelling, ethical and cultural challenges that immersive storytelling — from 360 degree video to VR — present to journalists and media organizations.

Today at the Online News Association (ONA) 2016 conference, we announced Journalism 360, an initiative to build a network of journalists willing to tackle those challenges and share what they’re learning. With this effort, we’re looking to support experiments, provide training workshops, and bring together technologists and journalists to engage in a dialogue. We hope these conversations push this young form of journalism forward.

Journalism 360 will be made of up these key efforts:

  • In-depth Content: On Medium, Journalism 360 will host a range of case studies, explainers and analyses on subjects such as narrative techniques, editing video, ethics and more;
  • Learning: Online and in-person workshops, events and trainings to encourage more journalists, journalism educators and newsrooms to use tools available from various technology platforms to explore emerging forms of visual storytelling and to engage users;
  • Funding: In 2017, Knight and Google will launch an immersive storytelling challenge fund that will award grants ranging from $5,000 to $35,000 for great ideas that will advance the collective understanding of these new forms including narratives, ethics, production and other issues. More information about when and how to apply for these grants is coming soon.

The effort began earlier this year, when both Google News Lab and Knight Foundation brought groups of VR thought leaders from journalism and technology together on different occasions. The message was the same for both of our organizations; there is an overwhelming desire from people working in the immersive storytelling space to stay connected and share best practices and learnings. That’s when Google and Knight saw the potential of working together.

Both Google News Lab and Knight bring experience supporting communities of journalists committed to learning and exploring how technology can strengthen reporting and storytelling. At the Google News Lab, we helped to create the First Draft Coalition, a network focused on verifying eyewitness content and which earlier this week announced further expansion with a new partner network. At Knight Foundation, we regularly support people and projects looking to advance the practice of journalism in the digital age. Inspired by the success of these efforts, we are now joining forces with the Online News Association to support a similar effort for immersive journalism.

On this Medium publication, we want the pioneers in the field to talk about the lessons they are learning from the stories they are creating. The goal is to help accelerate understanding and knowledge of immersive journalism. In addition to the Google News Lab and Knight Foundation, here are our other founding partners:

  • The Online News Association will serve as the central lead of Journalism 360. As the world’s largest association of digital journalists, ONA is uniquely positioned to understand the needs of journalists and help produce immersive journalism events and training.
  • Seasoned VR practitioners, Sarah Hill, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Storyteller of Story Up VR and Mitch Gelman, Chief Technology Officer of the Newseum, will provide direction for our online resources, starting with the Journalism 360 Medium publication. We’re also excited about engaging the immersive journalism pioneers now working in news organizations, in journalism schools and independent leaders, including Nonny de la Pena and Robert Hernandez.

Over the course of the fall, we’ll provide additional information about workshops, events, training, and grants to support experimentation.

Interested in learning more about Journalism 360? Read the post from Sarah and Mitch — and be sure to tell them what you’d like to learn more about with this form.

— — By Erica Anderson, Google News Lab and Shazna Nessa, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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