Virtual Reality & Immersive Journalism

26th Jul

The whole picture.


Just as brands need to create compelling content, a news story needs to engage the reader more efficiently than ever before. The internet allows us access to global news from numerous outlets from a tap of a touch screen. Therefore, the major players of the industry are looking at new ways to tell a story and engage their readership.

The Guardian have chosen to cover the treatment of prisoners in the US with the campaign, 6 x 9: A virtual experience of solitary confinement. This story allows The Guardian’s audience to experience solitary confinement through virtual reality. The experience has been created based on testimonies from former prisoners that have spent time in solitary confinement - a 6x9 room and fully isolated from human contact for 23 hours a day.

The thought of being locked up in such a limited space is scary and disturbing for most of us, but easily forgotten when it doesn’t affect our everyday life. To really highlight the issue, expose the harsh reality and potentially spark change, The Guardian creates an immersive experience that is informative, compelling and difficult to forget.

The experience replicates a prison, transporting the viewer into a new reality that they can interact with and move around. This immersive quality allows for a new understanding and proves far more engaging than the same story told in the form of a written article. The experience allows the user to see the world through the prisoner’s eyes which creates a powerful and compelling message.

The VR 6 x 9 story is accessible through an app for Android and iPhone, VR goggles or a Google cardboard headset and lasts 9 minutes. It has been created to highlight the psychological trauma this form of incarceration can cause, with audio, 360 interactive visuals and a narrative told by people who have experienced this type of imprisonment.


However, it is not only The Guardian who are pioneering this new form of storytelling. The New York Times have also released several VR stories, including The Displaced which tells the story of child refugees. This new approach to reporting removes ‘the objective’ and creates a personal connection with the story.  

Virtual reality has been used extensively by brands and tech companies to sell products or for gaming, but in this instance, The Guardian and The New York Times bring the technology to the mainstream, highlighting crisis’ that are hugely ignored. As The Guardian’s tagline relates, the news platform is dedicated to reporting the ‘whole picture’, and does so successfully by this new form of effective storytelling, showing us that to create engaging content, experience is essential. 

Read our top tips on creating effective stroytelling here.

Images from The Guardian and The New York Times.