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Dec. 17, 2015, 11:42 a.m.
Reporting & Production
LINK: www.knightfoundation.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Shan Wang   |   December 17, 2015

Virtual reality in journalism is definitely not going away anytime soon — not with news organizations like The New York Times building and prominently promoting new VR projects (including some created as sponsored content), or the Wall Street Journal adding “Virtual Reality” as an official section in its flagship app.

Now PBS’s Frontline has received a $580,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to greatly expand on work it’s already done this past year creating more immersive documentary experiences (Knight is also a supporter of Nieman Lab). Working with VR studio Emblematic Group, which has helped produce content for companies like Oculus, Frontline “will spend 18 months experimenting with, and developing best practices for, immersive journalism,” according to a release. Together, Frontline and Emblematic will produce “at least three” VR experiences based on Frontline’s reporting. Frontline has also been working on an immersive documentary on the ongoing food crisis in South Sudan, a project funded in part by the Brown Institute for Media Innovation at Columbia.

“Virtual reality is expanding as a medium and becoming increasingly accessible to news consumers on a wide array of storytelling platforms, but no established set of standards and ethics around applying journalism in VR environments currently exists,” Frontline executive producer Raney Aronson-Rath said in a statement. “With this generous support from Knight, Frontline is committing to exploring and creating VR through the lens of journalism, and to leading the way in setting frameworks for journalistic standards in this space.”

Frontline has more than dipped its toes into the VR waters already, and it’s offered up its experiences for anyone interested. Last month the Tow Center released a report detailing challenges and lessons learned from Frontline’s first VR documentary, “Ebola Outbreak: A Virtual Journey.” The report detailed difficulties around choosing hardware as well as figuring out the best filmmaking techniques to use; you can read it in full here.

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