How much empathy do we need in the newsroom, if at all?

Reporting the hardships and tragedies of other peoples lives must involve an innate emotional response in order for us to connect with the people we’re talking to. There must be a balance of detaching yourself from situations that are too intense and emotionally strenuous in order to do your job properly, but also connecting in a way that comes naturally to humans as sentient beings. 

VR and 360 degree video’s in-particular evoke a deeper emotional response because of the deliberate attempt at putting the audience directly in the midst of the story. The BBC recently posted a 360 video of a group of girls trekking to school through the Himalayas, and the response it got on social media was phenomenal. A flat video wouldn’t have been as effective because of the environment the girls were in- having such an incredible, multidimensional view of things you can control the angle of with your own mouse or tilt of your smartphone is such an innovative way of viewing that forces the audience to be an active participant in the story, which is something that news companies are wanting more and more of in 2017. 

But when does VR become too intense for an audience? Or even too intense for a journalist? The suicide of 34 year old renowned photographer Kevin Carter in 1994, is an indication of the trauma and mental strain burdened on the people who are trying to open the eyes of their audiences – would this increase tenfold with the use of VR and 360 degree videos? As the world moves forward into what I personally would class as one of the most turbulent times in modern history, I think it’s incredibly important to show the raw and painful side of what we’re doing to the planet and humankind. VR is a way of forcing the audience to immerse themselves in a different and provocative way, it runs the risk of people becoming numb to a lot of important issues, but I believe the good points of VR outweigh this problem. If this way of storytelling means we become more active and aware of the horrors of 2017 through shocking our audience out of passive viewing, then I see VR to be an incredibly positive and advanced tool vital for the future of journalism.