Interactive journalism is when audiences are involved in the processes of investigating and reporting a news story.

In this type of reporting, audiences actually form a key part of narrative creation as they connect the dots, watch the stories unfold and experience the events that take place.

By participating in these stories, audiences are given the chance to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the news. This makes content more meaningful to audiences because it involves them in the journey of discovering the truth.

But how can a news story do all of this?

Find out as media update's Lara Smit explores various versions of interactive journalism and why they work right here:


The Financial Times recently published a game on their website called The Climate Game. The goal of this game is to save earth from the effects of climate change. How does it work?

The game asks users to make a series of decisions to reduce energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in electricity, buildings, industry and transport sectors. Additionally, it asks users to make decisions that could reduce other greenhouse gasses while protecting jobs, healing nature and making sure that the earth is fit to live in.

Through this type of interactive journalism, The Financial Times has found a way to demonstrate to readers how global warming can be fought as opposed to just telling them. This is effective because it:
  • communicates the importance of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in electricity, buildings, industry and transport sectors
  • conveys the urgency of taking action against global warming
  • demonstrates how practical solutions can be put in place to solve the environmental crisis that the world is currently facing, and
  • places the responsibility of solving the climate crisis in the hands of everyday people, which encourages them to make a change.

Virtual Reality

The Guardian has discovered and implemented various methods to produce interactive pieces. One that stands out is its use of Virtual Reality to convey the experience of solitary confinement.

This is an example of how interactive journalism can be used as a form of activism. By placing people in the shoes of prisoners in United States solitary confinement, the news organisation aimed to expose them to the cruel and inhumane reality of this type of imprisonment. They also aimed to show people how psychologically damaging this type of confinement is.

In many ways, this experience was able to demonstrate to audiences how this type of incarceration actually does more harm than good. This is a powerful and effective way to inspire people to take action against using these types of correctional procedures.

But what makes it more effective than conventional reporting?
It is able to convey a narrative in more explicit detail by immersing people in that environment and making it tangible to them through their senses. Therefore, the story has a bigger impact on readers because they can experience it for themselves.

Visual aids

You may not know it but data journalism is pretty interactive. This is because it allows journalists to help readers piece a story together using visual aids.

A great example of this type of journalism is seen on the news website Information is Beautiful. This website provides reports in a series of graphics that serve as a visual representation of data.

But why is this effective?
Through a visual representation of statistics, data is made more palatable to readers by illustrating what it means. Therefore, audiences will be able to better understand the significance of what a statistic means within the context of a news story.


You know when you watch a movie or a series and you start to feel immersed in the lives of the characters on your screen? You start to experience what they experience alongside them. Sometimes, you even feel as though a chapter in your life is over when the movie or series ends.

This is how videos work as a device of interactive journalism.

Video has the unique power of involving people in narratives. It takes us from the beginning to the end of a story and allows us to experience it by showing us what happened.

A good example of how a news organisation employed — and enhanced — video interactivity is seen through The Guardian's interactive documentary of the first world war.

The Guardian gathered stories from 10 historians that were located in different areas of the world and created a documentary out of it. They incorporated interactive elements, like maps, that users can click through to watch and listen to reports of what happened in these areas during the war.

By doing this, The Guardian placed audiences in the shoes of the historians that were discovering and gathering information about the war. This is because it allowed audiences to participate in a type of search for this information across the map. Therefore, these audiences felt involved and engaged in the processes of uncovering history — making the experience of watching the news more fun and interesting.

What is your favourite medium for interactive journalism? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Want to find out how print media is becoming more interactive? Then be sure to read our article, Interactive print: the answer to the print versus digital debate?
*Image courtesy of Canva