Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Google WDYL a Windfall for Citizen Journalists

” Google+,” (Google Plus) which is Google’s second attempt at harnessing social media was getting all the buzz this week, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that Google launched a search tool that will be useful for citizen journalists and place bloggers, without any buzz at all.

Screen shot 2011-06-30 at 11.11.55 AM

Screen shot of, Google's new search utility is the new site, and it stands for What do you love?

I already love WDLY. The site starts with a plain looking search engine page, with the question “What do you love” a “from Google” note, and a search box. Type in a search term or terms, and WDYL returns a grid that holds a series of sub-searches on your term.


I discovered via smartphone, traveling on the subway. When I found it,  I typed “Chicago” into the search box, because that is a subject I know about. takes your search term and runs it through a very useful collection of what I would call “sub-searches” that it presents on one page. The design is flexible, so it scales to be readable on any size screen.

It pays to treat any new tool like any kind of information, and be a journalist. Vet it before you use or recommend it. That means, look you for mistakes, errors, and omissions and verify that it works. When you can explain it to yourself, you are ready to use that tool as citizen journalist.

So I took it through its paces and here is what I found out about First it is a Google-centric tool. The sub-searches it conducts are on Google-related sites, for example, it includes:

  • Measure Popularity (Google Trends)
  • Explore Chicago 3-D (Sketchup)
  • Make a Photo Album (Picasa)
  • Find Books (Google books)
  • Translate (Google Translate)
  • Watch videos (
  • Call someone (Google Voice)
  • Scour the Earth (Google Earth, KML)

The searches were fast, and what you expect from these tools. For a citizen journalist, the news tool is a quick way to monitor what’s going on and see if there is breaking news. It is not the kind of exhaustive, custom search you need to do when you are doing in-depth reporting.

The 3-D was more useful than I thought, because Chicago is a center of architecture, and most of our major skyscrapers have been rendered in 3-D. I’d pull those in if there was an emergency or perhaps to illustrate a zoning variance story. If you are writing about phyical objects, be sure to try the 3-D and see if it has images that could illustrate your story.

The trends search is more useful if you narrow your search term, for example, I could search for “Chicago mayor,” and see that topic was trending up as the last mayoral election was held. I think “Trends” searches can add to a story, but it is easy to forget to do one when you are using Google’s regular search page.

An important thing to remember, is that if you are signed into Google, when you do a WDYL search, it will customize some of the searches based on your login. So the “Make a Photo Album” brings back only your photos if you are logged into Google. If you aren’t logged in, then you will see all the public albums that meet your search criteria. This could prove confusing if you work with shared computers, or switch between Google accounts.

For some of the offerings like Google Voice, or Calendar, you will have to login or sign up for an account in order to use the feature.

The pros of WDYL are its speed, ease of use, it scales to any device, and you can customize it to work with any Google login. Because the sub-searches are in boxes in a grid view, the sidebar can feature a navigation grid that makes scrolling up and down a bit more precise and easier to accomplish. Cartoonist Scott McCloud’s pioneering work on visualizing images on the web, used a sidebar navigation grid that was way more elegant than WDYL’s, but I’ve always found that style of navigation to be intuitive and user-friendly.

The cons of WDYO are that it is Google-centric, and that because it customizes to your Google login, it could confuse a user. While Google is generally “good,” it should give all of us pause to trust any single site or company as our information source. For journalists, this is very important to remember. isn’t going to beat for elegant, scholarly, and specific searching, but it is easier to use than blekko, and its multiple search dimensions give you a quick and easy overview of your search domain.

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07 2011

Don’t Underestimate Fact-Checking

Some recent commentaries and articles on journalism have focused on fact-checking, a skill and task that should be taken seriously by professional and citizen journalists alike.

Let’s start with a Jan. 8, 2011, column by Arthur Brisbane, The New York Times’ public editor, who noted that The Times corrected 3,500 errors in 2010, most of which were errors in spellings, dates and historical facts.

Some of these errors were attributed to rushing on deadline, failing to check facts and misreading notes. Many of the errors, however, were attributed to “Googling a name and taking the spelling – or historical fact – as gospel.”

Many people rely on Google for basic information, but few realize the information that appears from a Google search could be inaccurate. They don’t even look at the information in a skeptical way.

In training citizen journalists, I always tell them that Google is a starting point – and only that. Just because information is found on the Internet does not mean it is true. All facts found through Google should be double-checked.

A second interesting example of fact-checking came from an article posted Jan. 25, 2011, by Newley Purnell, an American journalist in Thailand, who wrote about Associated Press reporter Thanyarat Doksone.

According to Purnell’s report, Doksone read a Twitter report from a Thai radio station saying that Bangkok’s anti-government, red-shirt protests last April and May had spread to the Asoke area of the Thai capital.

Rather than taking the Tweet as the gospel, Doksone decided to double-check the report.

Since she was in a different part of town, she took the extra step of asking her Twitter “followers” if they could confirm what had been reported. One of her followers who was in the area responded that “all was quiet and even posted an image to prove that there was no unrest of note,” Purnell wrote.

I guess both stories show the ups and downs of reporting in this technological age. You can’t always trust what you find on the Internet or on Twitter, but you can use those same tools to begin your research and/or to double-check what has been reported.

Susan Cormier is the head coach in charge of training at the National Association of Citizen Journalists ( and co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (

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Tilting the new Google News toward citizen sources

With today’s relaunch of Google News, the site offers new ways to customize your news consumption experience.  The Neiman Journalism Lab offers a good overview of all the changes, and summarizes noting that:

Google News: Pick your favorite citizen-powered sites

The new Google news

“… the new site is trying to balance two major, and often conflicting, goals of news consumption: personalization and serendipity.”

One of the main personalization features lets you select your favorite news sources — including citizen-powered sites.  Clicking “News Settings” in the upper-right lets you tilt the scales of the Google News algorithm toward sites like: NowPublic, the Huffington Post, and others.

Let us know how (or if) you’re using the new Google News.

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07 2010

Will Google and YouTube be the journalism of 2020?

Sourced by Blogging Innovation:

Americans are so used to freedom of speech that it’s easy to forget what the concept launched in the USA. 200 years ago anybody who could access a printing press, of any size, could produce a newspaper. That [w]as revolutionary. Citizen journalism was the norm, and there were literally thousands of newspapers. That situation remained very true well into the 1900s. Eventually acquisitions led to consolidation and a dramatic reduction in the number of newspapers.

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06 2010