The New York Times, the 164-year-old newspaper steeped in old-school journalism values, has covered the ongoing migration crisis thoroughly from the ground. The publication’s reporting has come in the form of short stories from embedded reporters, as well as a hyper-focused digital channel that includes commentary and archival articles on refugees. Today, The Times announced it is going to feature even more immersive reporting on the current migrant crisis, which will come in the form of virtual reality.
The New York Times has announced the launch of NYT VR, the newspaper’s new virtual reality project. The project comes out of a collaboration with Google to produce a series of virtual reality films. The Times’ debut VR film is titled, “The Displaced” and is about three children caught in the global refugee crisis.
The New York Times Magazine created the film with Chris Milk and his virtual reality company, Vrse, to capture the horrors of war from a child’s perspective. In recent months, the larger media landscape, including The New York Times, has covered the stories of the more than 30 million children around the world who have been driven from their homes by war and persecution. This film will bring viewers up close into the lives of three of these children from South Sudan, eastern Ukraine and Syria, respectively.
As part of the project, The Times will distribute more than one million Google Cardboard devices to home delivery subscribers with their print copy of The New York Times over the weekend of Nov. 7-8. Times Insider subscribers and a portion of Times digital subscribers will receive promo codes to redeem a free Google Cardboard set.
NYT VR is the newspaper’s latest dip into emerging publishing platforms, upholding its long history of translating print and paper into digital formats. The Times started experimenting with digital storytelling as early as 1995, when the dot-com boom was just beginning to swarm New York City.
It was also the first newspaper to offer a video game as part of its editorial content, as it launched Food Import Folly by Persuasive Games in 2007. In 2008, years ahead of the ubiquitous iPhone curve, the Times made the newspaper available on Apple devices. More recently, The New York Times turned digital reporting on its head in 2012, as Snowfall’s 6-part multimedia feature became a genre-defying piece of journalism.
As an innovator in the digital space, it seems the Times is ready to test the waters yet again, and experiment with how virtual reality could offer a powerful form of storytelling.
“The power of VR is that it gives the viewer a unique sense of empathic connection to people and events,” said Jake Silverstein, editor in chief, The New York Times Magazine, in a statement. “In the context of international reporting and conflict reporting, where our readers rely on us to bring them news and stories from remote and inaccessible places, this has huge potential. Through this immersive video experience, we can put our readers at the center of the most important story of our time.”
NYT VR will function in conjunction with an app that supports virtual reality playback for Google Cardboard as well as playback for 360-degree mobile video. The app will be free and available for download in the Google Play and iOS Apple Stores on November 5. A version of “The Displaced” will also be available for 2-D viewing on NYTimes.com and YouTube.
In additional to “The Displaced,” NYT VR is planning a number of films fit for virtual reality. The next NYT VR film, “Walking New York,” will offer a behind-the-scenes look at the making of French artist’s JR’s cover for New York Times Magazine.
In the business of telling stories, The New York Times is revered as a daily newspaper known for pushing journalism’s envelope. In its latest attempt to address the habits of an increasingly stimulated, ever-evolving virtual audience, The New York Times is becoming three-dimensional, and will hopefully stay relevant as a prominent news source in the digital age.