What can publishers do to try to prevent public concern around the ethics of virtual reality?

Virtual reality is an exciting and innovative development which has huge potential. It creates a whole new dimension for journalism, offering a powerful form of immersive storytelling.  It has the ability to place viewers on the scene of an event, not only transporting them to another place and time but seeing it from the inside and engaging them emotionally. Unfortunately, the power of virtual reality as an ’empathy tool’  also means that it can be used in a negative capacity.

Catherine Allen in an article for journalism.co.uk explains that the hype around virtual reality is  increasing public concern which could lead to “moral panic”. There is little known about the lasting effects of virtual reality. Not much research has been done, especially in the long-term as it has not been around long enough. It is this fear of the unknown, coupled with negative media coverage that could lead to virtual reality being seen as a threat.

There is no strict written ethical code regarding virtual reality. A first code was developed by two German philosophers which focuses on the psychological effects of engaging in virtual reality. Making it clear that subjects taking part in experiments using virtual reality should be informed about the risks involved. The extent to which behaviour can be influenced is unknown. These warnings should also be put in to place in relation to the use of virtual reality within the media. Publishers should inform the audience of the risks involved. If the footage is based on sensitive issues, contains upsetting or flashing images then prior warning should be given.

The areas which give rise to the most concern are those involving sex, pornography and violence. There are ethical issues relating to human behaviour and motivations. For example desensitisation, virtual criminality and the potential to lose sense of right and wrong. Over half of adults who were questioned about virtual reality expressed a fear of becoming addicted and of how it will affect their real-world behaviour. Publishers need to be aware of these fears and must connect with their audience in order to allay them.

In order to achieve this publishers need to involve the public every step of the way. Before, during and after creation. Ideas need to be tested early on with an audience to see their response. To see how it sits with them, to listen to their views and opinions in order to make adjustments accordingly. Continuous feedback is needed throughout testing and also when the stories are out there and finalised. Consumers then need a channel to vent their feelings, a space to voice their opinions.

There will always be those who are critical and sceptical about virtual reality. However, as virtual reality moves towards the mainstream, publishers need to address these fears. As Catherine Allen explains, “The industry is what we make it, and consumer perceptions are still being shaped.” Publishers, therefore, have the responsibility of chosing and presenting content which crafts an honest user experience. This must be based on a firm foundation of traditional journalistic ethics.



Scott, C. (2017). 5 key considerations for ethical virtual reality storytelling. [online] Journalism.co.uk. Available at: https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/5-key-considerations-for-ethical-virtual-reality-storytelling/s2/a684394/

Scott, C. (2017). Why moral panic could be detrimental to the virtual reality industry. [online] Journalism.co.uk. Available at: https://www.journalism.co.uk/news/why-publishers-of-virtual-reality-need-to-be-aware-of-moral-panic/s2/a702215/

Scott, C. (2017). Podcast available at: https://www.journalism.co.uk/podcast/why-publishers-should-take-measures-to-prevent-a-moral-panic-over-virtual-reality/s399/a702517/

Panetta, F. (2016). The Guardian and virtual reality. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/membership/2016/oct/04/the-guardian-and-virtual-reality


Woodward and Berntein-The Watergate Crisis.

This week  in CATS we talked about Woodward and Bernstein’s coverage of the Watergate Crisis. To summarise the scandal and its socio-political impacts I have referred to Charlotte Wilson’s  presentation:

On June 17, 1972, 5 burglars were arrested in the Watergate building in Washington DC.
They were caught trying to bug phone wires and steal secret government documents.
The story intrigued two reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein who began investigating the story.
The scandal led to many Americans questioning their leadership and numerous government investigations were carried out. It made people think more critically about politics and changed the way people thought about their government and the roles of journalists in society.
Woodward and Bernstein gained their journalistic fame through the Watergate scandal and helped the Washington Post become the bestselling newspaper at the time. It set the bar high for future journalists working in investigative journalism.

Woodward and Bernstein Investigation
“It is the single most spectacular act of serious journalism in the 20th century.”
it influenced a generation of journalists.

Socio-political effects:
Short Term
Resignation of President Nixon
69 government officials were charged and 48 were found guilty
Loss of seats for Republicans in 1974 elections
Long Term
Trust in politicians decreased
New interest for journalism
Rise in investigative journalism
The story was gripping at the time, making young people think about their careers, attracting people to the idea that journalism can really make a difference. By the 1990s, there were a whole generation of journalists producing some of the best work newspapers had ever done. This time was described as the ‘golden age of newspapers’ and traced back many journalist’s careers paths beginning from the Watergate

This case illustrates the importance of investigative journalism and the freedom of the press. It leads us to  question whether corruption on such a huge political scale would or could be uncovered and revealed by the press today. At the time of the Watergate Crisis huge pressure was being put on the Washington Post to try to dissuade them from publishing the story. It was only through the dogged determination of the investigative journalists and the willingness of the press to stand by them that enabled the US government to be held to account.

Personally, I don’t believe that the exposure of a story of such magnitude would happen today. Mainly  because of the financial implications. The cost of funding the investigation and also the risk of losing revenue from advertising and political party allegiance. Moreover, news reporting has become far more superficial with the importance of getting news out there as fast as possible.

Would the costs of exposing a scandal be worth the time and effort that is needed? I would like to hope there is still a future for serious investigative journalism but it is becoming increasingly difficult in a society where celebrities sharing their breakfast menu is the latest ‘news’.





Joseph Pulitzer (1847–1911)

Newspapers were ultimately for the elite as not all people could read. Joseph Pulitzer changed this.

Hungarian origin. Was born in Mako, Hungary on April 10, 1847, the son of a wealthy grain merchant of Magyar-Jewish origin and a German mother who was a devout Roman Catholic.

›At 17 tried to become a soldier. He ›tried  to enlist in the Austrian Army, French Foreign Legion and the British Army in India but was rebuffed because of weak eyesight and frail health

Started to become a newspaper publisher in the States

Studied English and Law

At the age of 25 he became owner of the St Louis Post Dispatch

Became renowned for making sure that the paper was the people’s champion. voice of the people. Did many exposes on public figures and issues. Exposing fraud, government corruption, wealthy tax-dodgers, and gamblers. Newspapers to become accessible for all.

Took over the New York World

He started many different styles in newspaper stories.Introduced comic strips for those who couldn’t read and large images. The picture tells the story. Sports sections and supplements and women’s fashion even before women had the vote.

“Yellow Journalism” sensationalism, fake news, eye-catching

Public interest supporting immigrants and impoverished

›Championing working class

›Exposing corruption

›Holding officials to account

Funded the Columbia Journalism school

Pulitzer Prize

Sir Trevor McDonald

Image result for trevor mcdonald

“Life is so short is seems careless not to use it all.”

When asked to write about our “journalistic hero” I had absolutely no idea who I could choose. I think the word ‘hero’ is probably too strong a word as there are many journalists I admire  but I would not elevate them to this position. However, my view on this may have changed having researched the iconic news presenter and broadcast journalist Sir Trevor Mcdonald.

Trevor Mcdonald was born in Trinidad in 1939. He came form a relatively poor background; his father worked in an oil refinery and raised pigs. I think it is important to emphasise here the role his father had on shaping his own values. He said, ” My father was a respecter of people as people. He never classified them because of the colour of their skin.”

Despite his lack of formal education he read widely and perfected his English by listening to the BBC World Service (it is interesting to note that he was once viewed as the best spoken person in the country). His extraordinarily long and succesful career began in 1962 in Trinidad when he started working in radio, television and on newspapers, joining the Caribbean section of BBC’s World Service. He moved to the London in 1969 to work for BBC Radio as a presenter. In 1973 he became the first black presenter to work for he ITN working is way steadily through the ranks.

He is probably most remembered for his role as presenter of ITN News at Ten from 1992-1999.From 1999 to December 2007, Sir Trevor presented ITV’s Tonight programme during which time he interviewed President Bush on two occasions and political figures including Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice and Hilary Clinton.

He has received more awards than any other newscaster in Britain and was named Newscaster of the Year in 1993, 1997 and 1999. He was awarded on OBE in 1992 and was knighted in 1999 for his outstanding services to broadcasting. He continues to work on in-depth documentaries such as Women Behind Bars, Inside Death Row and most recently Mafia Women.

The people he has interviewed is an exhaustive and  impressive list. He was the first reporter to interview Nelson Mandela three days after his release from prison. He has interviewed Jessie Jackson, Saddam Hussein, Colonel Gaddafi, Yasser Arafat, Presidents Bush and Clinton and many more. However, I think the main thing that distinguishes Sir Trevor is that he gets people to talk to him. Mainly because he listens, giving his undivided attention, he never interrupts and treats everyone with equal respect; be it a world leader or a convicted murderer. It does not surprise me that he has been described as the most reassuring, reliable and trustworthy of the faces on television.

He has said that he always had “a genuine interest for this business of dissemination of information” and that “the fun of journalism is to drill down to find the truth of what ‘s really going on”. He emphasizes the importance of the freedom of the press but more importantly the responsibility that comes with that freedom.

For me Trevor Mcdonald epitomizes the five core values of ethical journalism; accuracy; independence; impartiality; humanity; and accountability. I would add to this his coutersy, believability and gravitas. As to his secret for success, Trevor McDonald says, “there is no substitute for hard work, all comes through graft.”



Emily Bell

If you’re doing important journalism, you really need people to read it. If it’s just about making money, you’re better off in a different business.

Born : 1965 King’s Lynn, Norfolk, UK.

Education : Master’s in Jurisprudence, Christ Church, Oxford University.

Emily Bell is the director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. (Established in 2010, the Tow Center has rapidly built an international reputation for research into the intersection of technology and journalism). She was previously the director of digital content for Guardian News and Media (2006-2010) and the editor-in-chief of Guardian Unlimited (2001-2006).

She began her career in 1987 as a trainee reporter on ‘Big Farm Weekly’ for which she says, “Law, shorthand, driving licence” were  “the three essential skills for a print journalist in 1987“.  She then joined Campaign in 1988

Bell started with the Observer newspaper, which became part of Guardian News and Media, in 1990 as a business reporter.The majority of her career was spent at the Guardian in London where she worked as a writer and editor both in print and online. As editor-in-chief (2001) across Guardian websites and director of digital content for Guardian News and Media (2006), Emily led the web team in implementing live blogging, multimedia formats, data and social media ahead, making the Guardian a recognized pioneer in the field.

She is a champion of open journalism where interaction and collaboration is the key. One lesson Bell does not think should be ported from traditional journalism is the idea that news organizations create news and consumers consume it. Because really, news isn’t for “consumers” – it’s for “citizens.”

Emily Bell became a non-executive director of the Scott Trust, which owns the Guardian Media Group, in January 2013.

Guardian.co.uk, the Guardian and Observer’s network of websites, has won multiple awards, including the prestigious Webby for Best Newspaper on the worldwide web in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

“Oddly perhaps, I’m boundlessly optimistic about journalism; I really believe that this is the dawning of a new golden age,” Bell told Wired.com. “Of course the industry is currently under a great deal of structural pressure but the emerging new voices and techniques are producing really thrilling results already.”

Martin Bell

Image result for martin Bell

“News is always about people”

Born : 1938 Redisham, Suffolk, England.

Education : 1st Class honours degree in English. King’s College Cambridge.

Awards :  Royal Television Society’s Reporter of the Year Award, 1977 and 1993. Appointed  Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), 1992. Unicef Ambassador 2001

Martin Bell OBE is one of the best-known and most highly regarded names in British television journalism.He was among those who defined the term “war correspondent”.

He joined the BBC as a reporter in Norwich in 1962 as a 24-year-old graduate. Three years later he moved to London and soon he was in Ghana on his first foreign assignment.

Over the next 30 years, he reported from 80 countries and covered 11 conflicts. He made his name in Vietnam in the 1960s, and covered wars in the Middle East, Nigeria, Angola and Rwanda, as well as numerous assignments in Northern Ireland.

He was badly wounded by shrapnel in 1992, whilst covering the war in Bosnia. His “lucky” white suit let him down for once.

Martin Bell left the BBC in April 1997 to stand as an Independent against the MP for Tatton Neil Hamilton.  Bell won with an 11,077-vote majority.

In 2001, Bell was appointed UNICEF Ambassador for Humanitarian Emergencies. Assignments for UNICEF have included Tajikistan, Burundi, Kosovo, Malawi, Iraq Democratic Republic of the Congo, Darfur , Afghanistan and Somalia.

Martin Bell made a brief return to television news in 2003 when he provided analysis of the Iraq invasion for ITN’s Channel Five News.The short films he compiled from the daily video footage brought a unique humanitarian perspective to the events in stark contrast to the coverage of much of mainstream media.

It was once said of ITN’s Sandy Gall and myself that we had faces like the relief maps of the countries we were covering. The country in his case was Afghanistan and in mine was Bosnia – neither of which is blessed with regular features. But film-star good looks were not then in the job description.” Martin Bell.

›Martin Bell interviewed on his career at The Frontline Club: http://youtu.be/2ppIQRAJcfg?list=PLpeGvLvZZN8o-uGTh3BN953CqCLM0a-1s


Martin Bell visits new BBC Newsroom 2013

Jon Pilger

John Pilger

“All Journalism should be investigative, from football to cookery”.

Born: 1939 Bondi, Sydney, Australia.

Education : Sydney High School.Four-year journalism cadetship scheme, Australian Consolidated Press.

Awards : He has won an Emmy and a BAFTA for his documentaries, and also numerous US and European awards, such as as the Royal Television Society’s Best Documentary. Youngest journalist to receive Britain’s highest award for journalism, Journalist of the Year and was the first to win it twice.

Career Summary
1958-62: Reporter, freelance writer, sports writer and sub-editor, Daily & Sunday Telegraph, Sydney
1962: Freelance correspondent, Italy
1962-63: Middle East desk, Reuter, London
1963-86: Reporter, sub-editor, feature writer and Chief Foreign Correspondent, Daily Mirror
1986-88: Editor-in-Chief and a founder, News on Sunday, London
1969-71: Reporter, World in Action, Granada Television
1974-present: Documentary film-maker, producer, director, reporter and author.

Accredited war correspondent in Vietnam, Cambodia, Egypt, India, Bangladesh, Biafra and the Middle East.

Covered ›US upheavals following assassination of Martin Luther-King

›Cambodia in the aftermath of Pol Pot’s reign – led to fundraising campaign

›1994 Indonesian occupation of East Timor

In Britain, his four-year investigation on behalf of a group of children damaged at birth by the drug Thalidomide, and left out of the settlement with the drugs company, resulted in a special settlement.

“It is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers without understanding the hidden agendas of the message and the myths that surround it.”
John Pilger, Hidden Agendas

“It is not enough for journalists to see themselves as mere messengers without understanding the hidden agendas of the message and the myths that surround it.”
John Pilger, Hidden Agendas


A powerful investigation into the media’s role in war, tracing the history of ’embedded’ and independent reporting.