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Google's News Lab Aims To Help Journalists

Many reporters have developed an ad hoc system of using Google-related tools in their work. Now the tech giant wants to consolidate those tools and make them easier for journalists to use.

On Monday, the company announced the launch of a new site called News Lab, which intends to connect journalists with programs, data and other resources — all from Google — to help in their reporting. The site will feature tutorials and best practices on how to use Google products in reporting. It will offer access to the recently updated Google Trends service, as well as other services.

News Lab shows some of the journalism-related partnerships Google has pursued lately, including those with media accelerator Matter and grassroots journalism organization Hackers/Hackers. Google is also holding TechRaking summits with the Center for Investigative Reporting, among other events.

Additionally, News Lab offers information on developing new investigative tools, including the use of drones in reporting. Google’s News Lab will also power the training and research arm of Google’s Digital News Initiative in Europe.

The company will make its tools made available to journalists around the world and get helpful Google data sets in the hands of journalists everywhere, News Lab director Steve Grove said in a blog post.

Useful Mechanisms

We reached out to Mitch Ratcliffe, senior analyst and digital media strategist with BIA/Kelsey, who told us that News Lab will be useful for people who want to use the mechanisms for doing journalism to tell their stories, but it won’t replace the news judgment taught in good journalism schools.

“Ultimately, because we know Google surfaces data selectively, it would be a mistake to use only these Google tools to report on Google, as just one example of why this is merely a partial solution to doing digital news,” said Ratcliffe. “And I think we have plenty of Google-flavored news as it is, because most journalists and bloggers use Google to amplify their reach already.”

The News Lab site comes on the heels of announcements from Google that indicated the company was increasing its offerings to journalists. Teaming with social news agency Storyful, Google debuted YouTube Newswire, an aggregated feed containing daily newsworthy events that have been published to YouTube. Google also said it would support Witness Media Lab, which will produce a number of in-depth projects on human rights issues, and The First Draft Collection, which uses journalism experts to train reporters on issues such as video verification, research and ethics.

Meanwhile, the “data” section of News Lab links to the recently updated Google Trends service and highlights media organizations that have used Google Trends data in their reporting. On Wednesday, Google rolled out a redesign of Google Trends that now brings real-time data for 28 countries to its service.

One Tool Among Many

The attempt to consolidate and showcase Google’s journalistic tools and resources comes at a time when a growing number of people get their breaking news from social media services. Often, the social media posts where the news originates then become embedded in not just news stories but also journalists’ Facebook updates, tweets and live streams from services like Twitter’s Periscope or Meerkat.

“This is one well-intentioned experimental basis for doing journalism, tuned to leveraging the Google-owned channels, but it does not provide a business foundation for sustainable enterprise news production,” said Ratcliffe. “Google can certainly feel good about doing it, yet there are many different tools for doing the same things Google is enabling and journalists need access to and understanding about the consequences of using all of them.”

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