by UFSocial Contributor Brooke Jordan
It’s 9 a.m. You just walked out of your morning meeting and your executive producer is sending you to cover a crime and interview the police chief. This requires you to do a little research before you pack the news truck and hit the road. So where is the first place you look? One word: Google.
Google has revolutionized not only how everyday people conduct research but also journalists. If I had to count the number of times I went to Google each day “off the clock” and “on the clock,” I guarantee on the clock would be higher. The way Google utilizes keywords to generate a list of hundreds of articles in under a second is — for lack of a better word — fascinating. But it’s also critical, especially in the world of reporting.
In his opening remarks at the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, Google’s Director of News and Social Products Richard Gingras said, “The future of journalism can and will be better than it’s past. We have never had a more open ecosystem for the expression of information and ideas.” He described Google, and in particular Google search, as a way “to connect the dots between a consumer’s interests and informational needs and the most relevant available knowledge from the best possible sources.” This goes for journalists as well. When a journalist needs to conduct background research for a story, they use and manipulate specific keywords to gather the information they are looking for. But journalists need reliability and quality. Gingras says, “All of [Google’s] efforts are focused on quality. How can we find the highest quality coverage from the best possible sources, the best article on any given subject or news story.” Simply put, a journalist just needs to put in a keyword, and Google does the rest. In short, Google makes a journalist’s job easier. Gone are the days of beat calls, cold calls, and door knocks. Sure, sometimes those are still relevant, but for the most part every journalist can now sit and their desk without lifting the phone to put together a story.
This can also help a journalists work get noticed. If a person is looking for more information on a story, including critical terms in the article will bring the article to the forefront and be an option to be clicked on. This is how journalists and news organizations build their networks, audiences, and credibility. Their goal is to be reliable, and generating their stories through Google Search is key.
In today’s society, video is no longer an added bonus to a story, it’s essentially a requirement. Viewers demand video. They want visual evidence of a story. Before, journalists relied on their own shooting and they only worked with “whatever they could get.” Now, YouTube is one source that offers journalists additional video sources.
Accoding to the AJM Students’ Blog, “With over 800 million unique users of YouTube each month, in 43 countries and in 60 languages, the platform of videos sharing can attract a lot of people, more than any television, radio or newspaper over the world. So media organizations have decided to use YouTube not only as a source but as a channel of information too.”
In many cases, user-generated content is the first source or piece of content gathered by journalists. It’s a central place to combine video and audio content. YouTube also has the unique ability to be embedded on various platforms and converted to usable content for news stories on the air. One example illustrated on the blog is the Japanese Tsunami in 2011. According to the site, 39% of videos were posted by citizens while 51% were posted by news organizations. But if you look closely, many of the videos posted by the news organizations were actually shot by citizens.
YouTube also provides a platform for journalists to learn. It’s called the Reporter Center. Hundreds of videos are collected for journalists to learn everything from reporting tips to presentation on camera to camera instructions. It shows YouTube is a training ground for journalists of the future — and of course, in touch with today’s society, it’s all online.
YouTube also has a platform called I-Files. According to the blog, it launched in 2012 and selects and showcases the best investigative pieces from news organizations around the world. “Behind this collaboration, all these media organizations want to show they realized journalism is changing… They use YouTube which is a major platform for citizen journalism to provide videos in a attempt to bring some much needed attention to the new form of investigative journalism.” Journalists are always searching for information, and in addition to the other Google sources, YouTube helps bring visuals to the information and is another platform to demonstrate one’s work.
Though Google+ is almost obsolete, it had an impact on the community of journalists as a whole and how they interacted and shared ideas.
One example discussed in Mashable is the idea of inviting followers to an “exclusive” audience hangout. Whether this was behind-the-scenes look or to provide a quick update to a story, Google+ was one of the first social platforms on the forefront of connecting journalists to their audiences. “With the natural enthusiasm for engagement and intelligent conversation, Google+ could become a place for journalists to generate solid feedback from their audiences. It’s important journalists grasp the full potential of the platform. From there, they can optimize its features to create a social dialogue around news content.”
Google+ also provides a community to cultivate discussion surrounding news coverage. Industry leaders can come together and talk about how they analyze a situation or how they would present it. “Though starting discussions about the news and their analysis of the news is nothing new for journalists, Google+ seems to be a more natural platform for these conversations,” writes Mashable. It provides a tight-knit community that allows feedback and discussion of situational details.
Talk about adding visualization to a story. When news breaks and a reporter or organization hasn’t had time to gather video, Google Maps allows them to show viewers exactly where the incident occurred. According to Journalism Festival, it’s a “quick and shareable tool” that is most useful “when efficiency is the key, but no other imagery is available at the moment.” It also allows several people — i.e. reporters, producers, directors — to edit the map simultaneously.
For data driven journalism, there is a tool called Fusion Tables. According to the article, this tool “allows to combine statistical data in the form of spreadsheets and geography.” This is good for long-term stories, comparing numbers to locations, like how many people in a certain area may be affected versus everyone else in town.
Finally, Google Earth provides satellite imagery, which provides even more visual support to a story. People recognize locations based on landmarks, and Google Earth helps establish these landmarks and set the scene for viewers.
In conclusion, Google has helped pioneer journalism research as it is today and will continue to do so as the online world keeps evolving and growing. Through its various tools, Google has made journalism, in a way, easier but also presents its own different set of challenges. The first and most important being verification and credibility. Google helps provide visualization to stories, especially those that may be breaking or lacking imagery. Google in some ways in the way of the world, and it’s up to journalists and news organizations to stay up with it so they can be ahead of the curve and present viewers accurate information.