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Can virtual reality save the news industry?
A new report from the Knight Foundation and USA Today calls virtual reality "critical" to the future of journalism. - photo by Chandra Johnson
If a picture is worth a thousand words, some journalists are hoping virtual reality may be worth a lot more.

The term "virtual reality" is likely to conjure up ideas for video games and entertainment opportunities, but some in the news industry see it as a way to revolutionize how journalists can get their audience to understand a story.

That's what USC Annenberg research fellow and journalist Nonny de la Pea did in January, taking news consumers into virtual recreations of true-life events in war-torn Syria, to see the situation first hand or, virtually first hand. De la Pea calls her marriage of virtual reality and journalism "immersive journalism," and she's not alone in thinking it could change news forever.

In 2014, Columbia Journalism Review called virtual reality journalism's "final frontier," and a new report from the Knight Foundation and USA Today released this month called the technology critical to journalism's future if untested.

"Many concerns and open questions remain, the report said. They are primarily focused on the burden of production, accessibility of headsets and quality of content. They also include whether peoples news consumption habits will embrace immersive behavior and how to track ad metrics.

Revenue possibilities and production costs aside, the idea of inserting something so easily manipulated as virtual reality into journalism, which is tasked with documenting concrete facts, is not without its critics.

"How does a journalist represent competing views on a news event, when various witnesses and images paint alternative pictures?" Forbes asked. "Making decisions about privacy or showing scenes that are graphic and gruesome only add to the layers of complexity."
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