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Robert Hernandez, associate professor of professional practice, and digital journalism professor at the prestigious USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, provides a delightful overview of the future of immersive digital journalism. Robert Hernandez’s skill and experience cover a multitude of areas such as changing news industry ethics, information, and communication technologies, new media, online journalism, pop culture, the practice of journalism, and social media as it pertains to journalism.

Hernandez is a veteran of web journalism with a strong focus on the nexus of technology and journalism. His primary goals are to empower people, increase opportunities for better-informed reporting and storytelling, to engage the community, improve overall distribution, and increase revenue. Hernandez’s belief is that ‘open source’ shared knowledge between journalists will improve the quality of journalism, and he continually works to build communities of digital journalists and technology-oriented writers. He is an active participant and supporter of VR journalism and media diversity. Hernandez has served on many national boards such as Chicas Poderosas, InquireFirst, the Online News Association, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Hernandez has worked professionally on several top projects that are heavily involved with augmented reality, as well as wearables/google glass and virtual reality. His latest project is an immersive experience that is appropriately named and trademarked as, JOVRNALISM™. His project work has been featured in The New York Times, on NBC, NPR, and in USA Today, and other significant publications and media outlets.

Hernandez discusses his professorial work with the Oculus platform, 360 video, and how many make the transition soon after working with 360, to VR. For as Hernandez explains, 360 is more common in newsrooms, and due to economics, it has a wider reach. He explains the 360 camera in detail, in regard to framing of the story and the composition, and how he relates this important information to his students. As he discusses, the 360 camera becomes almost another subject in the reporting, as it is a thoroughly immersive experience.

The technology journalism professor gives an overview of some of the advanced technological platforms that are launching on YouTube and other media that allow users to split views and utilize VR tools such as Google Cardboard to essentially go inside the video, for full immersion. However, as Hernandez explains, the technology is so shockingly interesting that first-time users may be distracted by the amazing experience, so much so that they may miss key elements of the actual story being told. But he states that a good story will resonate with people, regardless of the technology, for that is the key to solid journalism.

Hernandez recounts a particular experience in which he covered a coming storm and how the graphics and semantics, coupled with the advancing VR technology, provided reference points to help people understand the scale of the storm to fully grasp its potential danger. He discusses how immersive experience helps people to more fully believe the story, but cautions that those with nefarious intentions could use the technology to manipulate as well.

Hernandez’s JOVRNALISM has received multiple awards from respected institutions such as the Online News Association, Society for News Design, and Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, and others.

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