Immersive journalism (IJ), where individuals engage in a news story from a first-person perspective using interactive technologies, has become increasingly popular in recent years. Such stories may improve the impact of journalism on the audience by enhancing feelings and emotions associated with the news content. Studies have shown that rather than undermining rationality, emotion could increase engagement toward news pieces, and improve knowledge of social issues. Emotional personalization (EP), a strategy where the production of news content involves the emotional testimony of ordinary citizens at the heart of the story, is therefore increasingly employed. This study explores how EP, as well as the modality of IJ content, influences our perceptions and cognitions with regards to an IJ piece on war and conflict. In our study, 193 participants took part in a 2 (EP: present vs. absent) × 2 (modality: VR vs. desktop) experiment. Participants in the EP-present condition reported stronger feelings of presence and greater story recall, while those in the VR condition experienced lower emotional valence and stronger feelings of empathy. Our results support current literature on IJ and EP and suggest that with the rising interest in immersive technologies, sustained investigation on the implications of EP strategies in IJ is crucial.

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