by Kelly Frank Green, UFSocial Contributor
A couple months ago, Google reached out to me to see if I would be interested in a visit from the Google News Lab team. It’s not often Google searches YOU out so I’ll admit, I was intrigued. They spent an afternoon with our digital and social team in what turned out to be a giant tutorial on what Google can do for the journalist. Some tools you know. Some are new. See for yourself:
In the end, my afternoon with Google was training. Tools for my ever-evolving toolbox. You can’t bring up Google or any of its projects without encountering a bit of skepticism and a lot of questions. This week I was asked, “How significantly has Google single-handedly changed the job of the journalist?” It’s an interesting question that can be answered one of two ways: as a purist or a realist. As usual, I find myself in two places at one time – straddling the boundary between big J and the ever-necessary technology.
The job of the journalist doesn’t change with Google just as the job of the carpenter didn’t change with the advent of the power saw. It was just another evolution. Just another tool. At the heart of purpose, a carpenter still builds and creates. Journalists still tell stories by curating facts, finding emotion and wordsmithing that dose of magic into an organized set of words. We still are obligated to verify our sources, confirm our facts and be the watchdog and truth-teller for communities. Google expedited the road from “Once upon a time” to “The End” but it’s the journalist’s obligation to ensure all that’s in between is true and sound. Google is not synonymous with Fact.
Google saves time. Google saves money. Google combines thousands of resources into one which means Google is newsroom job loss. Google means a reporter who turned two stories a week in a previous life is now expected to turn two stories a day. Google means where once you may have shot, wrote and edited your entire story, you may never touch a camera for your 2 minute piece. Google means curation.
So what about the other journos:
As you can imagine, I have many journo friends who work in all areas of journalism. I put the same question to them that was put to me.
Angie Massie, Senior Executive Producer The Weather Channel:
Google has redefined what we do, how we do it, when we do it, and even who does our jobs. Now everyone’s a “journalist”, everyone’s a “copy editor”, a “fact checker”. Deadlines are now, if not 5 minutes ago. Don’t wait for an arbitrary timeline. Check it and get it on the air! Publish it now! Beat the competition. Don’t know something? Google must have the answer! It’s revolutionized the desk & the field… crews can find breaking news and remote locations faster than ever before. But it’s also made us lazy. Agree with the other respondents about face-to-face. I worry that the next generation of journalists & consumers, while they appear to be returning to longer form reports (see the renewed and growing interest in NPR), they seem to want more from a screen and less from a person. So thank you, Google. You’ve made us curious, independent, and self-reliant.
Kyra Phillips, Anchor & Correspondent CNN:
“How it’s impacted me negatively: As a public person, incorrect information and cruel commentary that impacts me, my family and professional life lives on forever. It’s hurtful and has been harmful in my career. The positive side: How I have been able to garner online support (including raising funds and putting pressure on policy makers) for kids with disabilities, wounded warriors, people with no voice who need help and unsung heroes. Google maps has saved my a** because I am notorious for getting lost. Google and YouTube has not only given me great leads and research for stories, it’s helped me tell them visually as well.”
Will Frampton, Reporter & Multimedia Journalist, CBS News Atlanta, WGCL:
“Google is at the point now where it touches some part of my daily workflow, almost every day. Instead of calling 411 for a number, I Google the company name, look for the contact page, and reach them that way. If I need to know where I’m going and figure out drive times for the day, I’ll Google the location(s) from my desk. And if I have a last-minute question about something for a story which I forgot to research throughout the day, I’ll Google the topic or question and see if I can quickly get a credible answer. It has on more than one occasion saved me, when I was in a pinch.”
Katherine Green, Former Senior Vice President & General Manager, CNN International:
“I don’t think it changed the job of the journalist. We still have the same roles we have always had. Those elements are just tools. Some of the tools bring about ease but they also bring about new complications like ‘Proof.’ Sometimes we delude ourselves into thinking that we can just use Google to find what we need when what we really need to do is experience it.”
Eric Carlton, Photojournalist & Investigative Producer, CBS News Atlanta, WGCL:
“Google is adequate as a fact-finder but serves as an excellent compass. Even when it fails to provide trustworthy information, Google points me where to dig to find answers. It also allows us to quickly become “experts” on topics we didn’t know existed before the morning meeting. This is invaluable as it enables us to know enough to ask the right questions to the REAL experts.”
Amber Eikel, Assistant News Director, Fox News San Francisco, KTVU
OMG… Google didn’t change our job. It reinvented it. Not only does information flow faster than ever, but so does misinformation. No longer do you hear someone say, let me make a call. Instead you hear… “Let me Google it” God help us all if the building WiFi goes down. I haven’t seen a phone book or a Thomas Guide in years (Also, I couldn’t remember what Thomas Guides were called. I had to Google it)
Tom Fitzgerald, Correspondent, Fox News Washington D.C., WTTG:
I still feel there will always be a significant place for face-to-face human fact gathering, but it’s hard to think of an area of journalism that Google hasn’t affected. The basic old-school skills haven’t changed, however Google has significantly sped up the process. A search that used to begin in a phone book, notebook or a library, can start producing results in the time it takes to hit enter. I really do believe now more than ever, that young journalists need to force themselves to learn and develop a “back to basics” mode as well, because as Amber correctly points out…the WiFi sometimes does go out.
So back to where we started. How has the all-mighty Google single-handedly changed the job of the journalist? In no way and every way.
About the Author
Kelly Frank Green is a journalist and writer with more than 17 years experience creating informative, emotional and provocative programming. She’s worked for CNN, NBC & Fox News, and now works at the CBS affiliate in Atlanta as Senior Managing Editor: Broadcast, Digital & Social.