From drones, VR’s, to smartphone reportage: Welcome to the new world of digital journalism

June 23, 2016 / by / 0 Comment
  • SumoMe

Len Clark has evolved from a radio reporter to a digital journalist. However, this Notre Dame University journalism professor tells his students, soon to mount the ramparts of the Fourth Wall, to think of themselves as “multi-media content producers.”

According to his interview in Portage Life, Clark teaches the new breed of writers and editors to think of a variety of content platforms in crafting a story, and then adjusting their reportage accordingly. The days of typing a breaking story on a laptop or a Mac are fast disappearing the way of the dinosaur: the way that Clark sees it, the new digital journalist should be able to form and send a developing news story to his publisher in just a few minutes. Using his smartphone, he can simply snap a picture of a protest rally or polling in a national election, type the caption and a short-form reportage, and then email it as soon as possible.

That does not mean his job is over yet. He can still develop different angles from the same story, and tell each one through a different content format like an infographic or a slide share. He can easily tweet the 30-character lead without breaking a sweat.

Two main trends are making this transition into what Clark prefers to call “entrepreneurial journalism” possible: the news readers’ preference for short, concise, but still substantial stories, and groundbreaking technological tools that enable the journalist to create and post a story online in just a few short minutes.

Digital news readers want their news whenever and wherever they feel the need for it. Delay in delivery is beyond their comprehension. That’s why they make sure they’re always connected, staying close to hot wi-fi zones or carrying network extenders, such as 5BARz International’s product, that power up their weakening cell signals to its maximum level.

As Clark describes his new audience, “We live in a ‘twitterized’ universe and it’s changed the way individuals write. Attention spans change every three seconds unless we capture their attention.”

Visuals are one way to do it, according to Terri Rupar, the national editor for the Washington Post. In his article for Brookings, he says that publishers and their editors are increasingly turning to gifs, graphics, and videos to illustrate the content in a story.

The argument in using visuals becomes more compelling as technology like drones are being adopted by journalists to capture images in locations where only a few journalists dare to go. The modern drone can fly above 400 feet and can take moving images or photos of people and events within a 50-foot distance. As reported by, a drone has been used to take a video of a Syrian city that had been abandoned during the war. The images of children in rags playing near the rubble of bombed buildings created a story in itself and gave it a humanity and a heart in a way that very few prose stories could.

Closer to home, virtual reality (VR) devices can be used by reporters to get greater insight into the stories they are crafting. According to Vox, some reporters don the VR helmet and put on the sensurround gloves to virtually explore a war-torn world or the wonders of the undersea to experience as these digital universes can allow the trauma of a conflict or the urgency in protecting the environment. Although they are designed primarily for the gaming community, VR may just have paved the way for a new kind of reportage which the new kind of intrepid reporters has called “immersive journalism.”

Digital tools have expanded the boundaries of journalism and with it, empowered its front liners to produce more engaging, creative kinds of content that can inform their audience, and keep them reading or watching.