“Virtual Reality” Journalism Could Create “Virtual Propaganda”

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The largest U.S. newspaper publisher is experimenting with Facebook’s virtual reality headset to allow readers to experience a news story in a 3D immersive environment, but one expert warns the technology could lead to “virtual propaganda” which misleads viewers.

Gannett Company, which owns numerous newspapers including USA Today, used the Oculus Rift headset to create a virtual reality presentation of an Iowa farm as part of a special report on agriculture for the Des Moines Register.

Headset viewers could experience various farm activities from their own point-of-view, including children tending to livestock and farmers repairing a tractor.

“This is the way we, as journalists, are going to need to communicate to the Minecraft generation,” Gannett’s Digital Vice President Mitch Gelman told the Poynter Institute, referring to the popular first-person sandbox game which gives players creative control of their environment.

He added that the experiment is targeted at teenagers and young adults “who essentially are not picking up a newspaper from their front porch or sitting down in front of Brian Williams.”

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