Yes, you will have to make VR

But first, maybe just bone up on your spreadsheet skills.

Few journalists are tech-heads. Yet it feels like they have to be nowadays.

Hacks/Hackers Brisbane descended on Storyology Thursday evening for a chat about the biggest challenges at the nexus of technology and news storytelling.

“I think that the tools we’re using have not caught up to the devices that we know our audiences are using,” said Matt Liddy, who runs the ABC Interactive Digital Storytelling unit out of Brisbane. “And the only tools that are built for that audience experience are the ones built by big platforms.”

“There’s not a lot of professional-grade tools that are out there to deliver a lot of really immersive storytelling.”

Matt Liddy of ABC and Irene Jay Liu of Google News Lab joined Hacks/Hackers for the informal panel Thursday evening.

Liddy’s team now uses Snapchat and Instagram Stories to create mobile news content — “because those are actually the tools they have in their hands,” he says.

Irene Jay Liu, Google News Lab’s Asia-Pacific lead, said mobile is the big challenge for data visualisations right now.

“You can do all these really great visualisations on desktop,” she said. “But then on a touchscreen, your hand is big, your thumb is big, and the screen is tiny!”

Journalists haven’t quite cracked how to manipulate the experience “from the context curation standpoint”, she said.

“In a newspaper, there’s a front page and you get a sense of editorial judgement flow. There’s this natural sense of, one story leads to another and another,” she says.

“We haven’t quite figured out how to do that on a tiny screen. And that is something that can make a big difference.”

Liu said journalists need to become more technologically engaged if they’re going to step up their digital reporting.

But even though she works for one of the most advanced tech companies in the world, Liu — like Liddy — advocates for surprisingly simple tech for journalists. Google Search, for one: it can save time for journalists who are looking for specific, hyperlocal data.

The best tool for data journalism: “I would say either Excel or Google sheets for investigative reporting,” she said.

Still, the futuristic technology is coming.

Journalists need to start preparing to tell stories with augmented and virtual reality, to connect more closely with their audiences. Google is investing heavily in that medium, she said.

Liu said Daydream, a virtual reality platform developed by Google that is built into the Android mobile operating system, would allow users to visualise a 3D experience of a story’s surroundings.

Users would be able to interact with digital stories without the need of a phone or connection to a computer, immersing themselves in an experience that would allow full access to a 360 degree view of a story.

On the production side for photo and video journalists, Google has also partnered up with GoPro and co-developed a giant camera called the Odyssey.

The photographic platform shoots 360-degree footage, capturing quality footage entailing depth and allowing views to explore the frame without feeling nauseated.

From sheets of paper to iPhone apps, the production of news has changed dramatically with technological change and innovation.

The digital age has a message: It seeks to benefit — not harm — the remaining journalistic desire to discover, tell and share stories of common interest.