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Friday, March 11, 2022

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Augmented and Virtual Reality Journalism: what is its role in the future?

Until a few weeks ago, Augmented and Virtual Reality were synonyms of video games or entertainment to me. I haven’t realized how it has been in journalism and it will be part of the future of the newsrooms. It can reshape storytelling and reporting, and it’s a way to engage the public and appeal to new audiences. 

Virtual Reality | Credit: Pixabay

One fact that particularly made me interested in this immersive technology is that our brain registers the virtual reality experience differently than reading or watching a video because the body feels it and that sensation is recorded as a real memory. And how having that feeling someone has experienced is more impactful and can enhance empathy and make the user care more about the subject or problem in question. 

As an example, I would mention The Weather Channel (TWC), which has used mixed reality to communicate forecasts and other pieces of weather information. One that impressed me is called “A tornado hits the weather channel”, in which the meteorologist explains the different stages of the phenomenon and safety tips. At a certain point, the tornado appears to crash into the studio and he shows all the damage caused by it afterward. It actually seems real. 

However, in my opinion, incorporating these tools daily will be a challenge for journalists since they will have to acquire new skills and approaches, and rethink the core journalistic concepts. I agree with Taylor Owen, in his article on CJR, when he says that “journalists cannot appropriate the physiological power of virtual reality without also thinking seriously about how leveraging it for journalistic purposes changes the way the world is represented.” 

That is an issue pointed out in the paper “Real Virtuality: A Code of Ethical Conduct”, published by philosophy professors Michael Madary and Thomas Metzinger in 2016. They affirm that VR is a “powerful form of both mental and behavioral manipulation, especially when commercial, political, religious, or governmental interests are behind the creation and maintenance of the virtual worlds.” 

There is also another possible negative point to consider. As Saleem Khan says here, as the technology advances, false (but real-looking) VR/AR experiences will inevitably enter the market. It’s a challenge that’s critical for media outlets to face. We need to consider the accountability of actions and structures that determine what occurs within them. Media literacy and fact-checkers will have to be extended in order to include the new technology journalism. 

In any case, this is the future. Technology is consistently progressing. News organizations and journalists must do experiments with all the news tools in reporting to take advantage of these advancements, creating engaging and compelling stories. That is the route to attract new audiences and keep journalism alive.


Owen, Taylor 2016, "Can journalism be virtual?", Columbia Journalism Review, accessed 11 March 2022, <https://www.cjr.org/the_feature/virtual_reality_facebook_second_life.php>.

Wired Insider 2018, "Digital Reality and the Revival of Journalism", accessed 11 March 2022, <https://www.wired.com/wiredinsider/2018/08/digital-reality-and-the-revival-of-journalism/>.

Madary M and Metzinger TK (2016), Real Virtuality: A Code of Ethical Conduct. Recommendations for Good Scientific Practice and the Consumers of VR-Technology. Front. Robot. AI 3:3, accessed 11 March 2022, <https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frobt.2016.00003/full>.

*This article was submitted as a memo assignment for the course "Current Issues of Journalism" at the University of Illinois.

About Manu Ferreira

Hi, my name is Manu Ferreira. I am multimedia producer. I hold a bachelor's degree in Social Communication - Radio, TV, and Internet, and a Master's degree in Journalism. Here, I want to share my ideas and some of the work I've done in my career.


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