Journalism 360 awards $195,000 to 11 winning projects that use immersive storytelling to advance journalism

Google News Initiative, Knight Foundation and Online Association partnership supports ideas focused on pressing issues from technology surveillance to race issues

By on September 12, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Eleven projects led by creators from around the world that seek to help develop and expand best practices in immersive journalism, including virtual, augmented and mixed reality, will receive a share of $195,000 as winners of the 2018 Journalism 360 Challenge. The challenge is a joint initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Google News Initiative and Online News Association.

The 11 winning projects were selected from more than 400 applications that addressed the question: How might we experiment with immersive storytelling to advance the field of journalism? Each winner will receive grants ranging from $4,600 to $20,000 to test, refine and build out an early-stage idea.

Winners will cover complex issues such as privacy and surveillance, race issues and domestic violence in new ways. Reflecting emerging trends and challenges in immersive storytelling, the projects will explore best practices in key areas such as audio tools, volumetric tools and on-the-go production.

Journalism 360 opened the call for ideas in May 2018. Now in its second year, the challenge helps to fulfill Journalism 360’s mission to support news organizations and individuals to explore, learn and share new ways to use immersive storytelling.

“The winning projects focused on advancing new models and techniques in immersive storytelling. They will work to innovate journalism — providing news organizations and reporters with insights into new forms of storytelling and audience engagement techniques that can shine a light on the issues that matter most to communities,” said Paul Cheung, Knight Foundation director for journalism and technology innovation.

“We’re proud to support the second class of Journalism 360 grant winners. We’re eager to see these projects brought to life and become points of reference and education for the rest of the journalism industry,” said Erica Anderson, U.S. Partnerships Lead, Google News Initiative.

“The diversity of voices and projects represented by this year’s challenge participants provides an optimistic outlook for journalism. We heard from creators around the world who are expanding the boundaries of immersive storytelling and experimenting with more varied tools, with some building on inspiration from the 2017 challenge winners. We’re also excited to see journalists pitching innovative ways to help people in their communities use immersive technology to tell their own stories,” said Laura Hertzfeld, Director of Journalism 360.

The 11 winners of the 2018 Journalism 360 Challenge include:

Alone: No Badge, No Backup, Anchorage Daily News ($4,600)

Project lead: Kyle Hopkins | Anchorage, Alaska | @adndotcom

This project will create a 360-video and audio package covering life in an Alaska village without police, where help is a plane ride away.

AR for Field Production Journalists, PBS NewsHour ($20,000)

Project lead: Travis Daub | Shirlington, Virginia | @newshour

Through this project, PBS NewsHour will train their traditional field production journalists to collect and create 3D assets and other media to support and enhance their reporting through augmented reality.

Changing Same: The Untitled Racial Justice Project, Changing Same Collaborative LLC ($20,000)

Project lead: Michèle Stephenson | New York City | @radafilmgroup, @scatterco

Through this project, participants will travel through time and space to witness the connected historical experiences of racial terror in America in a room-scale, virtual reality experience.

Home With Our Stories, Lauren McCarthy ($20,000)

Project lead: Lauren McCarthy | Los Angeles | @laurenleemack

The project explores the potential of using a system of smart home devices as a remote reporting tool, offering an alternative, immersive relationship between journalist and interviewee based on intimacy and care, while questioning the implications of bringing monitoring and automation technologies into the home.

Interdimensional Audio Editor, Datavized Technologies ($20,000)

Project lead: Hugh McGrory | New York City | @datavized

The Interdimensional Audio Editor is an intuitive tool that allows journalists to quickly and easily assemble and share sound to export as stereo (2D) for traditional use, such as in video storytelling, or as spatialized (3D) for virtual, augmented and mixed reality.

Immersive Visualizations: A User’s Point of View, Nathan Griffiths ($20,000)

Project lead: Nathan Griffiths | Vancouver, Canada | @njgriffiths

This project aims to study the effectiveness of immersive visualizations that target the general public and use formats more commonly found in newsrooms by conducting user tests on completed visualizations.

The Next Louisville: Youth Voices, Louisville Public Media ($10,000)

Project lead: Erica Peterson | Louisville, Kentucky | @WFPLNews

Using VR, audio diaries and immersive storytelling for radio and the web, this project will give a voice to youth in the community — unearthing the myriad of challenges they’ve inherited and their own solutions for the future.

Site-Specific Immersive Audio Stories, Future Projects Media ($20,000)

Project lead: Josephine Holtzman | New York City

The project will develop immersive, site-specific audio stories using binaural recording, a 3D sound technique that provides audiences with the feeling of being in a space and prompts deeper listener engagement.

Spot the Surveillance, Electronic Frontier Foundation ($20,000)

Project lead: Laura Schatzkin | San Francisco | @EFF

The project provides an immersive virtual reality experience that gives participants unique insight into the privacy-invasive technologies creeping into public spaces around the world.

Visualizing Health and Science News with Augmented Reality, NYC Media Lab and The Associated Press ($20,000)

Project leads: Erica Matsumoto and Darrell Allen | New York City | @nycmedialab, @APHealthScience

The project will explore the visualization of health and science news in augmented reality by creating and testing prototypes with users; it will convene a team of graduate student designers and AR developers from across NYC Media Lab’s university consortium to develop prototypes on topics such as space and the cosmos, climate change and medicine.

Volum: A Volumetric Video Field Kit, Gisa ($20,000)

Project lead: Trevor Snapp | Nairobi, Kenya | @_Volum_

Volum is a modular tool kit designed to make volumetric video accessible and affordable for creators and technologists around the world. This project will develop an open source kit of best practices by building and deploying a prototype in collaboration with immersive storytellers in East Africa.

Journalism 360 is a global network accelerating the understanding and production of immersive journalism. Since launching in 2017, the program has built a community of more than 5,500 creators and has funded 22 projects. On Sept. 14, Journalism 360 will host the second annual Immersive Storytelling Festival during the 2018 Online News Association Conference in Austin, Texas. The festival will feature projects from the 2017 Journalism 360 Challenge, finalists for the Excellence in Immersive Storytelling category of the 2018 Online Journalism Awards and other virtual reality and augmented reality explorations from the community.

About Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit

About Google News Initiative

The Google News Initiative is Google’s effort to work with the news industry to help journalism thrive in the digital age. The GNI brings together everything Google does in collaboration with the industry—across products, partnerships, and programs—to help build a stronger future for news. It is focused on three objectives: elevate and strengthen quality journalism, evolve business models to drive sustainable growth and empower news organizations through technological innovation.

About Online News Association

The Online News Association is the world’s largest association of online journalists. ONA’s mission is to inspire innovation and excellence among journalists to better serve the public. Membership includes journalists, technologists, executives, academics and students who produce news for and support digital delivery systems. ONA also hosts the annual Online News Association Conference and administers the Online Journalism Awards.