Google donates $5 million to save journalism

Ronny Kerr · October 27, 2010 · Short URL:

Journalism needs help surviving in the digital age, maybe technology can come to its aid in the end

Knight Foundation

Depending on who you ask, journalism is dead or dying. And no matter who you ask, the Internet is the only thing to blame. Now, one of the Web giants at least partly responsible for the downfall of print media is looking to make amends.

Google announced Tuesday that it will be gifting $5 million in grants to non-profit organizations working to keep journalism alive and well in the digital age.

“[W]hile we’re mostly focused on working with news organizations to develop better products for users, we also believe it’s crucial to encourage innovation at the grassroots level,” said Google in the announcement, arguing that though it has already tried to help publishers make revenue, it has not before focused journalism on a smaller scale. “Our aim is to benefit news publishers of all sizes.”

“Journalism is fundamental to a functioning democracy”

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, a nonprofit organization expressly dedicated to keeping journalism alive in the digital age, will receive $2 million of the total grants. Half will be used to support U.S. grant-making related to innovation in journalism. The other half will go toward the five-year-old Knight News Challenge, a contest which awards as much as $5 million each year to applicants with creative and sustainable ideas for information platforms, visualization tools and distribution services aiming improve the health of journalism in the digital age.

One winner, named DocumentCloud, which was awarded $719,500 in 2009, digitizes investigative reporting by bringing source documents online. A year earlier, Zimbabwe-based Freedom Fone received $876,000 to create a news database where users can information via land, mobile or Web phones. More recently, CityTracking was granted $400,000 to curate dynamic and real-time visualizations of city data, like crime or 311 information.

The other $3 million Google will invest in internationally-based journalism projects, though the company won’t yet divulge details of recipients.

Weirdly enough, the tension between Google and news companies has never really subsided.

Google has been criticized by multiple groups--not just news organizations--for merely aggregating original content it had no part in creating. The tension has sometimes reached a fever pitch. Big name media companies like News Corp. and AP enjoy the traffic that Google feeds them, but they’re not entirely happy about all the ad money Google makes in the meantime.

While this $5 million grant might go a long way in keeping journalism strong, don’t expect it to alleviate those tensions with the larger news organizations.

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