Where the Magic Happens: Interactive and Virtual Newsroom Tours

The average reader or viewer will never see the inside of a newsroom and sadly will never experience the electricity of reporters and editors working together to gather the day’s news. Newsrooms have long been shrouded in a veil of secrecy, so why should they bother letting outsiders in on the experience?

Imagine having a friend with whom you talked every day, but knew nothing about where they lived or never visited their home. Newsrooms are a lot like that, but they don’t have to be. Journalists can use the multimedia tools they use to bring stories to life to cover themselves. The following virtual tours combine photos, audio, video and/or slideshows to give users insight on the institutions and journalists who represent their interests.

The Sky News Virtual Newsroom combines three-dimensional animated recreations of various news departments with interviews of the people who work there. The overall effect shows just how complicated newsrooms can be, but also how many people it takes to create the news.

Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore is your virtual tour guide to the “studio of the future,” a Flash-based digital recreation of the channel’s impressive studio. The hovering ghost-like orbs are clickable markers that describe some of the set’s features, including several high-definition televisions and monitors and other hidden quirks.

In 2007, The New York Times used video and 360° interactive panoramas to create an interactive tour of its Manhattan tower. The multimedia piece also features audio from architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff.

If you’re looking to recreate the panoramas seen in the project, check out this previous post on the tools used to create them.

A virtual tour doesn’t have to be flashy; it could be as simple as a series of panoramic photos, like those of the New York Times newsroom posted by Flickr user imajes. The now online-only Christian Science Monitor used a relatively simple, interactive Flash graphic to illustrate the day-to-day operations of the newsroom.

Talk shows have long been the forerunners of making interactive set tours available online and there are a few that are taking the idea to the next level. The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien posted a time-lapse video of its set construction and The Rachael Ray Show, using the interactive video technology from Klickable, has created a video walkthrough of the set in which users can click various items and find out more about them, as illustrated in the screengrab below.

The overall effect of the virtual tour is to give the user an inside look out how journalism is created and take some of the mystery away from the newsgathering process. The internet is all about creating a spirit of openness and an online tour is a great way to open the newsroom doors to the public.