Journalism Students Explore Virtual Reality Viewing, Immersive Journalism

Journalism Assistant Professor Jason Martin’s News Reporting class experimented with immersive journalism and virtual reality storytelling on Nov. 3. The class tried out Google Cardboard viewers and experiencing news events involving Syrian refugees, New York public art installations and the Trayvon Martin shooting first-hand.

JOUR 278 has focused in recent class sessions on how mobile and digital technologies can complement and supplement traditional newsgathering and storytelling through photos, audio, video and livestreaming. Exploring virtual reality and immersive journalism was a natural extension.

“I wanted the students to understand how the foundational reporting skills they are developing in class are being applied in a range of cutting-edge journalism projects,” Martin said. “We may look back and compare having an understanding of how to create immersive journalism in 2015 to the rise of social media applications for journalism in 2009. I want our students to be as prepared as possible to enter a professional world of journalism that is in an exciting time of flux.”

After previewing and discussing how Project Syria, the New York Times and the Des Moines Register have executed immersive journalism projects in recent months, students paired up and downloaded a variety of virtual reality mobile applications. Then they streamed or downloaded the video experience and viewed it using Google Cardboard Powis Parker virtual reality kits, purchased for the Journalism Program through College of Communication’s Innovation Fund.

After an hour of exploring the immersive possibilities, which also ranged into music videos and “Saturday Night Live” clips, students reflected on the experience and discussed how they might use virtual reality software and hardware in their reporting.

Martin’s December Intersession class on Reporting the Paris Climate Summit will expand on the uses for the virtual reality kits when students will create immersive climate-related video storytelling experiences using Adobe Premiere and After Effects.

The experimental digital reporting elective also will include graduate students from DePaul’s Sustainable Urban Development program who will lend their advanced mapping expertise to mapping digital data related to the Paris event.

Another team of students will focus on using the College’s Crimson Hexagon social media analytics software in the College’s new iLab.

“Our goal will be to report the Paris Climate Change Conference in real-time the first two weeks of the course and give students the experience of reporting on a globally important issue using digital tools,” Martin said. “Then in the final week of class, they will work in teams on in-depth multimedia reporting projects that will be showcased in our award-winning student media outlets.”