Immersive journalism

I came across this via a post called Making News Useful, about how journalism’s changing as a result of social media and open data. The basic idea is that the role of journalism now can involve:

  • building software around data sets that come from open data or from journalists’ investigation, so that readers can figure out how to use the data for themselves rather than just reading the interpretations that journalists put on it
  • forms of storytelling that are far more immersive that traditional reporting – for instance using Second Life to report on Guantanamo, so that readers/viewers get a greater sense of what it’s like to be there, or for rival gangs to take each other through their neighbourhoods with the aim of defusing rivalry and creating empathy
There are obviously possibilities here for stories about climate change, energy use and environmental justice.

It’ll be interesting to see whether any of these new journalism practices shape the new version of the Halifax Courier, which is to change to a weekly print paper and constantly updated digital news. This is only one of a number of Johnston Press-owned local and regional papers across the country that are suffering staff cuts and undergoing significant changes/updates.

Ashley Highfield, Johnston Press Chief Executive, says that the plan is to create “a series of themed digital destinations”, inspired by the website Mumsnet. Changes to the Halifax Courier are part of wider Johnston Press┬áplans for new daily iPad apps for all the company’s bigger titles, revamped websites with greater use of social media, and new mobile sites for all paid-for papers.

The changes are taking place in the context of cost-cutting closures to weekly local papers’ offices and compulsory redundancies for numerous staff – reporters photographers and editors. Johnston Press took on a lot of debt a few years ago and although it turns a profit it has been struggling to repay its debts and has come under pressure from banks.

Local papers across the country are suffering staff cuts. In Bristol, the local National Union of Journalists Branch has held a demonstration to protest against cuts to the Northcliffe-owned Bristol Evening Post.