Entering an Immersive World of News

Q1. What exactly is the Metaverse?

Answer: There is no single, agreed-upon definition of the Metaverse. Nor is there agreement about how it will be designed and built (Takahashi, 2022; Green & Works, 2022). However, one useful definition is the Metaverse as an immersive and interactive virtual world or constellation of networked virtual worlds. Given this definition, the Metaverse is a key development in the next generation of the broadband, publicly accessible Internet.

Q2. Why does the Metaverse matter to journalism?

Answer: The Metaverse is an emerging domain for journalism. Journalists and news media should establish a presence inside the Metaverse in order to report on important stories and reach a growing audience especially younger audiences engaging in the Metaverse. Moreover, the Metaverse signals an opportunity for news media innovation in storytelling and other journalism methods of production, distribution and management. Failing to establish a news media presence inside the Metaverse will constitute a lost opportunity for journalism to become a vital platform in the Metaverse as it emerges in the 21st century. Journalism as an institution and public good will likely further erode as it has done in the age of the Internet to date.

Q3. How is artificial intelligence relevant to Metaverse journalism?

Answer: Artificial intelligence (AI), especially generative AI, is highly relevant to both the Metaverse and journalism in and about it. Journalistic content production inside and about the Metaverse may be fueled largely or in some cases entirely by AI-type journalists. AI news will be efficient and cost-effective, making it attractive to news managers, owners and investors who likely will be part of the crypto currency paradigm. Perhaps the biggest questions are whether AI journalists will be capable of producing higher level journalistic work, especially investigative journalism, and creating content that is fact-checked and error free. Currently, AI journalists can most effectively and efficiently produce straight news. Where the facts are clear and uncontested, when the structure of a news story and its sources are straightforward and standard (e.g., answering the five Ws, with a typical lead, and inverted pyramid style of organization, with most important facts first), AI journalists can work tirelessly, efficiently and consistently, with no ego to bruise if an editor (digital or human) cuts a sentence or paragraph here or there, or re-writes their lead. But higher level journalistic work, such as investigative reporting, is likely to continue to require a human journalist or team of human journalists. And although early AI journalists tend to focus on text- or numbers-based stories or content, the potential to engage content across modalities and platforms is clear. The frequency of errors made by AI journalists compared to human journalists is a useful topic for research, though in the Metaverse, where the encoded nature of the virtual world makes it possible to know all the facts (or at least the data), it would seem likely that AI-reporter errors could be minimal, and due largely to either software, algorithm or technical glitches that could be corrected, or errors by the humans who oversee the AI journalists.

Q4. The public is vital to journalism, including inside the Metaverse. What is the nature of the public inside the Metaverse?

Answer: The public exists inside the Metaverse in the form of its users. Users are essential to the development of the Metaverse. Because of the interactive and immersive nature of the Metaverse, journalism must engage these users in an interactive and immersive form. This journalism may take the form of the dynamic immersive news experience (DINE). Using the capabilities of the Metaverse, especially AI and data, DINE can function in virtual real time (i.e., with near zero latency) or asynchronously and be customized to user preferences, interests and profile, featuring interactive, multi-sensory content experienced alone or in a multiuser space. This design parallels the popular immersive asynchronous multiplayer game, Eldon Ring (Greenwald, 2022). Moreover, DINE will be based on actual data ensuring precision, accuracy and the highest potential for truth (Laws, 2019).

Q5. Will journalists take on a new role or form in the Metaverse?

Answer: Yes, it is likely that journalism will evolve inside the Metaverse. Journalists are apt to evolve toward a hybrid model of human and AI reporters, or news avatars. These news avatars will be optimized for the Metaverse and will draw upon and engage the immersive, interactive, data and AI-fueled nature of the completely digital realm.

Q6. How will news avatars be different than journalists operating in the real or physical world?

Answer: Journalists in the Metaverse likely will operate autonomously and imbued with the values and practices of real-world journalism. A reporter might design his, her or their avatar to wear a fedora, or carry a note pad and pencil, or some other visual journalistic symbol. Or, they might design their news avatar with more digital news trappings, such as a wearable device or something of the sort. The creative possibilities are nearly limitless, bounded only by the human journalist’s imagination, the affordances and rules of the particular Metaverse platform, or perhaps the rules of the reporter’s own physical world news organization employer, if they have one. News avatars might become even more interesting if they feature algorithms that mimic the journalistic talents and expertise of their human counterpart, or perhaps even skills the human journalist lacks or wishes they had, such as relentlessness, dogged determination or fearlessness. These new talents might be considered journalistic superpowers in the Metaverse. For instance, a somewhat shy human journalist could become more charismatic as an avatar in the Metaverse, and as such an outgoing news avatar might be able to talk to sources or get them to engage in richer, more truth-revealing conversations. A news avatar might have a sophisticated skill set combining data collection and analysis with writing computer code, and these skills could be continuously updated. A news avatar might have advanced data visualization skills, making it possible to design, adapt and present animated and interactive news graphics in near real time or perhaps design 3D news scene reconstructions. Visual stories, videos and the like could be edited by the avatar following its news algorithm in near real time and for potential publication and sharing via social media inside or outside the Metaverse.