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Staff Reporter

A year ago this month, Canada’s new anti-terrorism legislation, the controversial Bill C-51, was unveiled at a campaign-style rally in a Toronto suburb. The divisive legislation initially encountered little opposition on Parliament Hill, leaving it to the media to highlight concerns.

And Canadian news outlets were “equal to the challenge,” according to new research conducted by Ryerson University School of Journalism instructor Kevin MacLean.

“For the first two and half to three weeks there was no opposition,” MacLean said.

“The NDP was quiet, refusing to take a position. The Liberals said they [were going to support it, but fix it…]. There was no one to oppose it politically, other than Elizabeth May, who got very little ink about what she had to say. There was nobody speaking out about it, other than the media.”

The bill, which became law in June, came under fire for the expanded powers it gives police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, its vague wording, its broad inter-agency information sharing provisions, its lack of security agency oversight and its potential to violate privacy and constitutional rights.

Unwilling to seem soft on terror the opposition parties initially sought the most “politically palatable” stance on the issue, says MacLean, and that resulted in a vacuum that news media stepped in to fill.

While Thomas Mulcair and the NDP would eventually come to oppose the bill, MacLean says it was not until weeks later, when the party had decided it was strategically safe.

“The NDP, after about three weeks in, finally said that they were going to oppose it at all costs. Mulcair’s arms were twisted behind his back by elder statesmen of the NDP who were calling him out on it. It was as if the NDP was waiting to see what would be the most politically palatable route to go in,” Maclean said.


“When the government and opposition parties… abdicated their leadership roles and opted for political expediency…, the Canadian media became the de facto official Opposition, asking the tough questions, demanding answers, and outlining potential problems with the government’s response and its anti-terror legislation,” MacLean wrote in his analysis.

MacLean’s research, conducted for his master’s of professional communications at Royal Roads University, examined 140 news stories, columns, and editorials about Bill C-51 published in the National Post, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star in the four weeks after the bill’s unveiling on Jan. 30, 2015.

“It was not our political leadership’s finest hour, however, Canada’s media… showed their readiness to act as the conscience and voice of the nation when elected officials were unable and unwilling to do so,” he wrote.

Within days of Bill C-51’s unveiling, a Globe and Mail editorial referred to it as “Harper’s secret policeman bill” and outlined the legislation’s potential negative effects on Canadian democracy and security.

“Under the cloud of fear produced by [Harper’s] repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force,” the editorial began.

Concerns emerged related to the way the bill was unveiled and subsequently passed with limited debate.

“The Star and to some degree the Globe were extremely vocal in their opposition to C-51, [not only against the content of the bill], but the way it was done,” MacLean said in an interview with the RJRC.

“From the day it was introduced in a community centre in Richmond Hill, instead of Parliament, it was at a partisan political rally, which set the tone – it was like a pre-election campaign stop.”

Articles such as the National Post’s editorial, We need parliamentary debate on Bill C-51, for instance, called on the government to continue the debate on the issue and heed the warnings of those with reasonable concerns.

“Credible people of all stripes have raised reasoned objections to sections of this bill, which deserve to be debated… It is in the public interest, then, that any potential problems with this bill are addressed before it becomes the law of the land. This cannot happen unless parliamentarians on all sides are allowed to debate the issue fully, with due consideration for proposed amendments,” the Post wrote.

Eventually, the debate period was extended and some amendments were made to the bill before it received royal assent on June 18. MacLean attributes the changes to the attention brought to the issue by the media.

“Initially, the government was allowing four days of debate on this and it was one of the things that prompted a fair bit of anger and criticism… [The press] called out the government for trying to ram it through,” said MacLean, who spent 25 years as a journalist with the Toronto Star.

“Eventually, we ended up with the equivalent of nine days of debate. It didn’t make any difference of course, because of the majority, but it is something that happened because of the large amount of noise made about it.”


In addition to publishing editorials that critiqued the bill, news organizations also reported on and published “noise” about the bill generated by other critics.

“It wasn’t only columnists or staff opinion writers, there were numerous op-eds written by academics and [security and legal experts] that were looking at exactly what this meant,” MacLean told the RJRC.

Within a month of the bill’s introduction, almost two dozen prominent Canadians, including four former prime-ministers and several former Supreme Court members, published a statement in the Globe calling for stronger security oversight in the bill.

“Protecting human rights and protecting public safety are complementary objectives, but experience has shown that serious human rights abuses can occur in the name of maintaining national security,” the statement said.

Later on in February, an open letter to Parliament, titled Amend C-51 or Kill it, was also the subject of news coverage. Signed by more than 100 Canadian professors of law and related disciplines, the letter condemned the proposed legislation, calling it potentially dangerous to Canadian rule of law and democracy, and possibly even counter-productive in deterring terrorism.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression filed charter challenges, the human rights watchdog Amnesty International called for withdrawal of the bill and there were mass protests across the country.

Following the bill’s signing into law, a letter penned by Canadian artists criticized the new law for its possible effects on free expression, saying it “directly attacks the creative arts and free expression in this country.” It was signed by more than 200 artists, including author Margaret Atwood, filmmaker Paul Haggis and musician Dan Mangan.

While much of the coverage of the bill focused on criticism of its provisions, other themes surfaced as well.

“The Post and a little bit in the Globe had a theme that I call, ‘Everyone relax.’ There were only a few pieces about that, but it was something that was mainly presented by the Post and speaks to why I thought the Post had relatively the most balanced coverage of the issue,” MacLean told the RJRC.

The Conservative Party’s success in passing Bill C-51 and bolstering its base in the process emboldened the party to use similar strategies in the election campaign that followed, MacLean says.

“The way Bill C-51 was handled, with scare-mongering and the terror bogeyman being prominent, was just replayed during the election campaign. The targets changed, that’s all.”

Referring to issues such as the niqab controversy, the barbaric cultural practices hotline and the handling of the Syrian refugee crisis, MacLean says “the Conservatives would not have done it if they hadn’t felt comfortable in the success of what they did with C-51.”

However, while Bill C-51 emboldened the Conservative Party, MacLean notes it had a similar effect on the opposition parties and the press. During the campaign that followed, “they were feeling a lot stronger and pushed back a lot more against the government.”

For example, “if you look at how the media organizations covered and presented the arguments about the niqab during the election campaign, you had strong and detailed analysis [cutting through partisan rhetoric]” he said.

When his party voted for the bill, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said it was in the best interests of Canadians, but that, if elected, his government would repeal parts of it and add more oversight and scrutiny for security agencies. After the Liberal victory in last fall’s federal election, the new government called for an overhaul of the anti-terror law, spelling out the need for replacement legislation in mandate letters to the Justice and Public Safety Ministers.

A key element of the new Liberal legislation is expected to be the creation of a multi-party, joint House of Commons-Senate committee tasked with strategic oversight of every government agency and department with national security responsibilities. The proposed committee will have a full-time staff, access to the necessary secret information, be sworn to secrecy and report to the prime minister and Parliament.


You can find MacLean’s research analysis, Fahrenheit C-51 and The October Crisis of 2014: Media Framing of the Government Response to Domestic Terror Threats here.


Staff Reporter

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The future of journalism education is the focus of a new collection of essays just published by the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre.

As waves of change transform the news industry, the papers in Toward 2020: New Directions in Journalism Education grapple with where journalism education should go from here and concludes it needs to change substantially and quickly, says Ryerson University journalism professor Gene Allen.

“I think in the past, if you had been a journalist for 20 years, then you would come and teach kids what you had done in the newsroom and that made sense for a long time because the profession was very stable,” said Allen, who edited the publication along with University of Illinois associate journalism professor Stephanie Craft, University of British Columbia associate journalism professor Mary Lynn Young and Carleton University associate journalism professor Christopher Waddell.

Those days, Allen notes, are gone: “Now that things are changing so fast, a lot of people who teach journalism, who spent a long time as working journalists, are realizing that their own experiences as professional journalists are an important foundation, but not the only thing they need to teach.

“If I came into a classroom and started teaching like it was 1985, that wouldn’t be very useful,” Allen said.

The 12 essays in Toward 2020 are based on presentations delivered at a conference held at Ryerson University last year. More than 100 journalism educators from Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia attended the event and the papers represent a cross-section of the ideas discussed.

“Most of the essays operated on a conceptual level, that we [as journalism educators] generally need to rethink what we’re doing and rethink what journalism is,” Allen said.

In her essay, award-winning CBC journalist and Mount Royal University journalism professor Sally Haney argues that deadline-driven daily journalism is often characterized by an absence of self-critical reflection.

Longtime Radio-Canada journalist and University of Quebec journalism professor Chantal Francoeur scrutinizes journalism’s claim to independence from public relations practitioners.

Jordan Press, a Canadian Press national affairs reporter and the only working journalist among the authors, urges journalism educators to connect with and teach news literacy to students outside their departments.

The collection also includes two essays by Ryerson School of Journalism faculty. Ivor Shapiro’s essay questions whether the main goal of journalism programs is, or should be, to prepare students for careers as professional journalists.

“Journalism is an approach to knowledge, not just a job,” he writes, “and journalism education is therefore about teaching a distinctive epistemology that enjoys broad professional utility.”

Associate professor Gavin Adamson, in the only paper that explicitly addresses the possibilities of new journalistic forms, suggests that short online videos, presented in a live blog format, offer great potential for audience engagement.

Allen said that the tone for the volume is set in the opening essay drawn from the conference keynote address by Robert Picard, research director of the Reuters Institute of Journalism at Oxford University.

In his concluding remarks, Picard said none of the old rules apply anymore: “Journalism education can only survive and succeed if it becomes much more aggressive in seeking change. It has to become far more innovative than it ever has been. It is not a matter of thinking outside the box, because the box no longer exists. What is required is deciding what will replace the box or how to get along without one.”


Staff Reporter

The large number of young women entering journalism today are well positioned to challenge sexism in the newsroom, veteran journalist and author Vivian Smith told about 100 aspiring reporters earlier this month.

“Just your sheer numbers mean that you’re going to have more influence in newsrooms,” said Smith, who spoke at the Ryerson University School of Journalism about her recent book, Outsiders Still: Why Women Journalists Love – and Leave – Their Newspaper Careers.

Veteran journalist and author Vivian Smith spoke at the Ryerson University School of Journalism about her recent book, Outsiders Still: Why Women Journalists Love – and Leave – Their Newspaper Careers earlier this month. [Ilina Ghosh]

Veteran journalist and author Vivian Smith spoke at the Ryerson University School of Journalism earlier this month about her recent book, Outsiders Still: Why Women Journalists Love – and Leave – Their Newspaper Careers. [Ilina Ghosh]

“When I was doing this, [I was] one woman [at a table with] seven or eight men and it was all very interesting to them, but not that important. So keeping up the conversation with your numbers, with your mass, is really important and I hope that you do that.”

Smith got her first job in the women’s department of the St. Catharines Standard when women were just getting started in mainstream journalism.

“We were in a little tiny room that was behind the bathroom and we had the exciting task of writing up weddings and recipes and trying to bully our feminist features into the women’s pages.”

By 1980, she was at The Globe and Mail, where she would spend 14 years as a reporter, editor, columnist and manager – and have two children.

Smith says it was an era when women journalists were “sidelined, ignored and scrutinized” at the Globe and other newspapers. Efforts by women at the Globe to lobby for child care services remains one of her “favourite failed adventures,” she said.

“Of course we were all pregnant, so management basically waited us out and never put out a daycare survey to see what kind of daycare people might be interested in… I think the union did finally put out a version of this survey and nothing came of it because all the people that were pregnant at the time went off and had their babies and disappeared. Problem solved.”

According to Smith’s research, women have dominated Canadian journalism schools in numbers for the last three decades. However, women still make up only a third of editorial staff and a quarter of managerial positions at newspapers.

“The higher up the ranks you go; the fewer women you see. When you get to the top 25 papers in Canada by circulation there are only, at my last check, four women as publishers or editors-in-chief,” she said.

Outsiders Still is a collection of conversations with 27 women journalists from five different Canadian newspapers. The youngest was in her mid-20s while the oldest was 61. Smith said she was able to identify distinct generational differences among her subjects

Smith calls senior participants, those 45 or older, “lucky survivors,” because they repeatedly attribute their success to luck.  

“All the time they kept informing me that they were just so lucky they got that internship way back when, they were lucky that that guy gave them a job, they were just lucky that they were in the right place and the right time, and they were just lucky that their husbands could take care of the kids,” Smith says.

She refers to women in the middle of their careers as “self sacrificing hard workers [who are] still pretty insecure about their jobs.”

These women, Smith says, are rising in the ranks, yet cannot fully accept that they deserve the positions they have earned. She quoted Hamilton Spectator city editor Carla Ammerata in the book: “We think, as women, that ‘I’m not smart enough to be in that position. I don’t have enough experience, what are they doing promoting me?’” Ammerata told Smith. “We are all our own worst enemies in some ways.”

In Outsiders Still, the youngest group of female journalists are characterized as “individual strategists” who are far more concerned with keeping their jobs than sexism. These younger women, Smith says,  believe that gender inequality is something they can “handle.”

Smith’s research also shows that women who are journalists see themselves as much more than simply purveyors of news.

“The main joy, the main satisfaction these women got from their work as journalists, whether they were a columnist or a managing editor or a reporter, was they were voices for the voiceless. The role of being a social advocate was really important to them, rather than ‘just reporting the news,’” Smith said during her presentation.

Smith began her research for Outsiders Still in 2008 as part of her doctoral thesis and spent four years collecting information, all the while worrying that the issue might be resolved before she finished her research.

“I was always worried because I thought well, what if I’m too late and gender inequality in the newsroom is solved by the time I get this done?

“I really don’t know what I was thinking at all,” she said, laughing. “Gender inequality is even more persistent than I am.”

Smith said the turmoil in the news business is also taking a greater toll on women than men. Studies show, she said, that women journalists more than men are feeling the stress of their jobs and are either considering leaving or actually are leaving the profession in greater numbers than their male counterparts.

“A lot of women were telling me [at journalism gatherings] that they were going to quit newspapers or they had done so already, feeling frustrated and burnt out… Being female seemed to define their careers in a certain way and all of these women’s voices were missing from the national conversation. And the papers where they worked continued to reflect a fairly narrow view of society.”

She says women journalists juggled motherhood and their careers as best they could, “while at the same time, trying to push the paper toward issues of importance to women and to more people and [pointing] out sexism in news coverage whenever we saw it.”

In the end, however, Smith says it just wasn’t tenable for many women “to remain at the extreme end of the macho culture in newsrooms.”

Sexism in today’s Canadian newsrooms, she says, continues to be widespread and has simply taken on a new form.

“An overt hostility towards a few women has been replaced by a systemically reproduced inequality that ends the careers of many women who manage to enter the field and that limits the progress of those few who stay and seek to make change through their work.”

As one of the senior journalists in Smith’s book put it: “Journalism, like many other professions, is easy if you have a wife at home.”


Staff Reporter

Recently freed Canadian journalist Mohamed Fahmy thanked his supporters Tuesday, while criticizing the Harper government’s lack of effort and diplomatic bungles during his detainment in Egypt.

“While you here, citizens in Canada and around the world, clearly understood the urgency of the situation we faced in prison in Egypt, the Harper government did not,” Fahmy said at a press conference at the Ryerson University School of Journalism organized by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.

Recently freed journalist Mohamed Fahmy addresses a news conference hosted by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression at Ryerson University's School of Journalism.

Recently freed journalist Mohamed Fahmy addresses a news conference hosted by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression at Ryerson University’s School of Journalism on Oct. 13. [Ilina Ghosh]

Fahmy, 41, was working for Al Jazeera when he was arrested in Egypt in 2013 and put on trial for airing what Egyptian courts branded “false news” and coverage biased towards the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood. He was sentenced to three years in prison earlier this year after a court process that was widely denounced by critics.

Fahmy said he initially felt disbelief  when he was told Prime Minister Stephen Harper was doing little to pressure the Egyptian government for his release.

“In my cell, I refused to recognize at the beginning that Mr. Harper was not putting his full clout behind me, I just couldn’t accept that. Then I realized there was a chorus from the international community of journalists and politicians, even Egyptian officials telling us that ‘Mr. Harper was not there for you.’

“Sitting in that prison cell, it was difficult not to feel betrayed and abandoned by Prime Minister Harper,” he said.

“Today, I want to start a conversation in Canada about how we as Canadians want our government to act when one of our citizens is wrongfully detained in a foreign jurisdiction,” he told reporters.

He said he would like to talk to the winner of the Oct. 19 federal election about how such situations should be handled in the future.

There needs to be communication between leaders, “from the highest levels of government, immediately when the arrest happens because that is the best time for intervention. If there is any chance of being deported or extracted, it is between the time you are arrested and when the case goes to court,” Fahmy said.  

“It can happen tomorrow to any innocent Canadian,” he said, adding that citizens in trouble abroad need a government “that supports us 100 per cent.”

Fahmy says he wants to start "a conversation in Canada" about how to better protect citizens in trouble abroad. [Ilina Ghosh]

Fahmy says he wants to start “a conversation in Canada” about how to better protect citizens in trouble abroad, calling the Harper government’s approach to his case “very mild.” [Ilina Ghosh]

Fahmy said the Harper government’s “very mild” efforts on his behalf prolonged his ordeal.

“Our prime minister delegated his responsibility to people who lacked the clout to really get me out of there,” he said.

“The junior ministers and ambassadors on the ground were diligent and well-intentioned and they visited me and made sure that I was doing well and they provided advice, but they didn’t have the authority to plead directly with President el-Sisi and that was what I needed, more than anything.”

He compared Canadian efforts to Australia’s successful campaign to free his Al Jazeera colleague, Australian citizen Peter Greste, who was released this February, while Fahmy was released in September.

“I do understand that Canada escalated their approach after the constructive critique we launched after my colleague was deported and I was left behind.”

Australia’s response, however, was strong from beginning, Fahmy said: “The Australian prime minister, as far as I understand, called President el-Sisi right from the get go several times calling for Peter’s release and then called to thank [el-Sisi] after he was released.

“This case should be a lesson about intervention from the highest levels immediately,” he said.

Fahmy was also critical of then-foreign affairs minister John Baird, insisting that Baird jeopardized his release when he said Canada would not prosecute Fahmy if Egypt let him go.

In an interview with media critic Jesse Brown earlier this month, Fahmy said that “all the journalists who attended the press conference where Mr. Baird announced that were shocked that he said it. That immediately kills what the Egyptians were trying to do, which is get rid of me in a face-saving manner.”

During the press conference, Fahmy repeatedly acknowledged the efforts of those who fought for his release.

“I am here because of you guys, thank you so much. Me and my wife and my family, we are very grateful to everyone in Canada who fought for this stranger,” Fahmy said.

“In that solitary confinement for one month, with no access to sunlight or even a way to tell time, I still somehow got news that there were rallies outside and people fighting for us and it did make a difference, it raised my morale and I probably survived because of your support outside.”

Fahmy thanked human rights organizations and the press, along with citizens who supported grassroots campaigns for his release.

“I’m very happy that every single person tweeted and signed the petition and all the organizations that asked Prime Minister Harper to intervene and put all his clout behind me,” he said.

“If you ever doubt that these campaigns make a difference – I am living proof that they do.”

Fahmy said he intends to vote on Oct. 19, but as a journalist “cannot endorse anyone.” His meetings on press freedom with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau on Monday and NDP leader Tom Mulcair later on Tuesday should not be interpreted as support, he insisted after the meeting.

However, during the press conference, he expressed repeated gratitude for the two leaders’ help during his ordeal, the support they provided to his family and the push they gave the prime minister for stronger intervention in his case.

“There are no words to describe how it feels when you are wrongly convicted, sitting in a cold cell, festering with insects, nursing a broken shoulder. But when you’re there, your only hope is that your prime minister will do everything in his power to get you out of there.”

The Conservative government, he noted, “refused” to talk to him, his international lawyer Amal Clooney or his lawyers in Canada.

While he did not endorse a specific party, he added: “You do know who I am not voting for. That’s for sure.”

Fahmy said he will also continue with his lawsuit against Al Jazeera, for the part he believes it played in his conviction and imprisonment.

“There can be no doubt that Al Jazeera endangered me and my team,” he said, by not arranging proper broadcast licences, commencing a lawsuit against Egypt a month before the verdict in his criminal trial knowing it would be “devastating” to his case, and against the warnings of Al Jazeera staff,  dubbing Fahmy’s English news reports into Arabic and rebroadcasting them on an illegal Arabic network labelled as a “national security threat” by Egyptian courts.

“No news network should be permitted to compromise journalistic ethics or the safety of its journalists. When a network betrays journalists and journalism in this way, as Al Jazeera did, we journalists and citizens who believe in the importance of the free press must hold them accountable,” he said.

Now back at home, Fahmy has accepted a teaching position at the University of British Columbia’s School of Journalism and plans to write a book about his experiences.

He will also continue his work with the Fahmy Foundation, an organization he founded with his wife, Marwa Omara, that advocates for wrongly imprisoned journalists and the protection of free speech.


Staff Reporter

Canadian Press photo editor Marie-Espérance Cerda was in the midst of this year’s violent May Day protests in Montreal and her virtual reality coverage of the event allows audiences to share in the experience.

Cerda’s experiment in virtual reality journalism plunges the user into a three-dimensional world, entirely filling the user’s field of view with 360 degrees of video that shifts with the gaze of the viewer. Her project also pairs this video with real-time audio from the scene, completing the immersive experience.


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Marie-Espérance Cerda demonstrates her experiment in virtual reality journalism – playing in the background is her coverage of the 2015 May Day protests in Montreal. [Ilina Ghosh]

“With virtual reality you are no longer representing reality or an event, you are recreating an experience. You are trying to get someone to feel something,” said Cerda, who produced the immersive journalism experiment as the major project for her master’s in media production degree at Ryerson University.

Gene Allen, a professor at the Ryerson School of Journalism and the supervisor of Cerda’s work, praised the innovative nature of the project: “[It] allows viewers to focus on any aspect of the unfolding action, just as if they were there.

“You can look in one direction — with the images filling your whole visual field — and see the cops approaching, beating shields with their batons, then turn around and see the protesters cursing and throwing water bombs, then turn 90 degrees to see a group that broke off and ran up McGill College Avenue, then back to the cops — or wherever you like.”

Cerda said her interest in technology and its function in journalism led her to explore the relatively new concept of virtual reality as a journalistic medium. She is not, however,  the first to experiment with the tools. American journalist Nonny de la Peña, “the godmother of virtual reality,” pioneered the use of immersive technology in reporting. Her latest piece, Project Syria, commissioned by the World Economic Forum, simulates the bombing of a Syrian refugee camp. Each element of the film is drawn from real audio, video and photographs taken on scene.

Similarly, The Wall Street Journal took its readers on a roller coaster ride of the NASDAQ, while VICE News asked, “what if, instead of watching a news broadcast about the latest protest, you could walk into it?” when it created VICE News VR: Millions March. It places the viewer in the midst of 60,000 protesters on the streets of New York City.

“I saw huge potential. I wanted to do the same thing and see what the implications of that would be,” Cerda said.

Intrigued by the work of those before her, Cerda began creating her own piece of immersive journalism. To capture all 360 degrees of the Montreal riot, she walked the streets of Montreal with six GoPro cameras set into a 3D printed rig: the result is what looks like a baseball bristling with cameras pointing in six different directions.

Cerda’s rig of six GoPro cameras in action on May Day. [Marie-Espérance Cerda]

The rig and cameras used by Cerda to capture all 360 degrees of the protest. [Marie-Espérance Cerda]

The next steps involved asking Ryerson to purchase a computer program called VideoStitch and teaming up with an undergrad student to plug all the audio and visuals into a 3D content development software called Unity.

While Cerda’s video can also be watched in a two-dimensional interactive 360 degree video, it becomes immersive when viewed through the lens of Google Cardboard, a low-tech virtual reality viewing headset that attaches to a smartphone.

The headset, made of folded cardboard, two biconvex lenses, magnets, velcro and a rubber band, is available for around $20 from Google Cardboard. Users can also build their own Google Cardboard at home using Google’s free instructions, with the lenses available online and other materials available at home or at a hardware store.

Google Cardboard, the low-tech attachment used by Cerda to transform a smartphone into virtual reality viewer. [Handout/Google]

Unlike traditional broadcast journalism, immersive journalism does not involve narrating a story, Allen said.  “It’s an exploration. It’s much more similar to a game than a standard news story. You’re in a defined area, but how you move around is really up to you and yet it’s reality.”

While virtual reality journalism can offer a viewer a way to experience a story that traditional forms of journalism cannot, Cerda says it is just one of the tools in a journalist’s storytelling toolkit. “VR journalism can’t be a stand alone product… because you can’t get the full story in a virtual reality experience,” she observed. “It’s best place is to offer a different aspect of… the information so that you can better understand it.”

Cerda said one of the drawbacks with the new medium is that it cannot be edited like reels of traditional footage and will likely not be successful with all news audiences. In her research, she found younger males were most receptive to the technology, while people over 35 were less interested and more set in their ways in terms of how they received their news. She said producing immersive journalism is also more labour intensive and technologically demanding than current approaches.

Allen, a historian whose research involves exploring the impact of new technologies on journalism, said that despite the limitations, “[the future possibilities] are pretty amazing.”