Immersive storytelling and VR (Virtual Reality) are creating the next generation of narrative. “Immersive storytelling is everywhere and there’s no going back”, states The Guardian. In 2015 The New York Times took a step into virtual reality by creating an app that can be used “to simulate richly immersive scenes from across the globe.” In March 2017, the Knight Foundation partnered with Google News Lab and Online New Association to introduce Journalism 360 Challenge — a competition designed to explore how we can experiment with immersive storytelling. In July of this year, 11 projects seeking to employ the cutting-edge technologies in journalism received a share of $285,000 as winners of the Challenge.

The Knight Foundation

John S. and James L. Knight

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is known for its endeavors to support quality journalism. Charles Landon Knight was a publisher of the Akron Beacon Journal, a morning newspaper in Akron, Ohio. In 1940 following their father’s death two brothers — John S. and James L. Knight — created the Knight Memorial Education Fund to continue Charles Knight’s mission of helping poor Akron college students pay for college. It was incorporated as Knight Foundation in 1950 in Ohio, and reincorporated as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Florida in 1993. Apart from investing in journalism, the Knight Foundation also supports arts, evolving new technology and communities where the Knight brothers once published newspapers.

 

We define journalism as the full, accurate, contextual search for truth, through both reporting and commentary. The sustainability of news organizations depends on the relevance of their journalism and the viability of their business model; we focus primarily on the former. The Knight Foundation

The Journalism 360 Challenge

virtual reality

Virtual reality and 360 video open new opportunities for journalists. It reshapes news, creates new forms of storytelling and helps engage with audiences in ways that are not possible in traditional journalism. However, with opportunities come technical and ethical challenges that journalists need to understand and tackle. The Journalism 360 Challenge aims at funding the projects that “advance the use of virtual reality and other immersive storytelling approaches in the field of journalism.”

Focused primarily on early-stage projects, the Challenge is open for all kinds of ideas and welcomes applications from “journalists, technologists, entrepreneurs, gamers, software developers and academics, to news organizations, startups, established businesses, nonprofits and individuals.”

The Journalism 360 Challenge generated 812 submissions within the U.S. Only 11 teams were selected. “We’re building a community of creators who can help bring immersive storytelling to a wider audience through grants, education, and training,” said Laura Hertzfeld, Journalism 360 program director. “These 11 projects represent the breadth of ideas and innovation that Journalism 360 will cultivate in the coming months.” One of the winners is New Cave Media — a Ukraine-based 360°/VR production company.

New Cave Media

new cave media

Alexey Furman, a co-founder of New Cave Media, is a photojournalist whose work has been featured in Ukrainian’s local edition of National Geographic Magazine, as well as in TIME, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, to name just a few. In September 2015 he was picked by Getty Images Reportage agency as an Emerging Talent photographer. Alexey Furman is currently studying for his Master’s degree at Missouri School of Journalism on a Fulbright scholarship.

As a co-founder of New Cave Media tells in his post on Medium, his first encounter with VR happened when he was studying in his house in Columbia, Missouri. At that time The New York Times announced the launch of a NYT VR — a virtual reality project in collaboration with Google. The plan was to deliver over one million Google Cardboard viewers to the The New York Times subscribers, and Alexey Furman was one of them. The debut NYT VR film, “The Displaced”, touched him deeply. The film immerses the viewer in the lives of three children uprooted by war and features some scenes shot in Alexey Furman’s home country, Ukraine.

alexey furman

In 2016 Sergiy Polezhaka, Alexey Furman’s best friend, came back to Ukraine after studying in Denmark and told Sergey about his idea to create a VR encyclopedia about Norwegian Arctic. The two later founded New Cave Media, a company that produces 360°/VR content. To date New Cave Media team have produced several multimedia projects. One of them tells a story of activists who renovate old houses and those ruined by war in Ukraine. Another is about  Buddhistic monks from Donetsk who moved to the Carpathians escaping from the war.

This month their project Aftermath VR app won a $20,000 grant the Knight Foundation, Google News Lab and The Online News Association. Fast Company reports that New Cave Media plans to launch the app by early 2018. “Aftermath VR will apply photogrammetry, which uses photography to measure and map objects, to recreate three-dimensional scenes of news events (such as mass shootings or natural disasters) and narrate what happened through voiceover and archival footage”, states The Knight Foundation press release. 

 

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