What talking to artists taught me about immersive journalism

Laura Hertzfeld
JSK Class of 2019
Published in
8 min readJun 3, 2019

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” — Pablo Picasso

French street artist JR’s latest installation at SFMOMA — “The Chronicles of San Francisco” — is a living portrait of the city. Photo: Laura Hertzfeld

I have always found merit and power in creative curation. The way headlines are written, which films get the green light, and how stories are presented can be as powerful as the stories themselves. I came into my year as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford hoping to explore my own creative side and learn how seeing myself as a creator and not only a curator might better inform my work. It turns out, learning from artists can help inform all of our work.

I found in speaking to artists that there are several lessons to take and use in journalism. First, embrace limitations rather than working within the seemingly unlimited space of the internet. Second, be more open about the way we understand analytics and audience interaction. And lastly, bring emotion and wonder back into our work.

I’d rather really affect 10 people deeply, make them see the world in a different way, than entertain 10,000. A lot of people don’t want to go there, but when those 10 people go there… then I’ve communicated something deep. That means a lot to me ― more than having 1,000 people standing on their feet.

― Morleigh Steinberg, photographer, choreographer, curator at Arcane Space

Facade of Time dance project by Arcane Space. Venice, CA February 2019. Photo: Instagram/Jess_Chappe

In September I’d just transitioned off an ambitious project — growing Journalism 360 to a global community of 1,600-plus immersive storytellers. I arrived on campus energized by my role funding projects like the Pulitzer Prize-winning experience The Wall at USA Today and the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s WebVR-powered Spot the Surveillance. I was excited to continue exploring the possibilities offered by virtual reality and augmented reality to expand how we explain the world.

But I also relished the opportunity to take a step back from the day-to-day and spend some time figuring out how we got here and where we’re going. I’ve been working in online news since 2003, when I started as a full coverage editor at Yahoo! News. Stanford was the perfect place to take a bird’s-eye view of…

Laura Hertzfeld
JSK Class of 2019

LA ambassador, midnight baker, Jeopardy silver medalist. Storytelling innovation. Prev @yahoonews @Journalism_360 @EW @PBS @jskstanford she/her