Steve Grove, director of Google News Lab, shared some of the history and focus of Google News at the INMA World Congress of News Media in Washington, D.C.

The main aim of News Lab is to drive innovation in newsrooms around the world with Google’s technology, Grove said: “We orient our work in sort of a problems/solutions framework with the industry, so we focus on four main challenges.”

Those are:

  • How to improve the situation around trust and misinformation.
  • How to build local news organisations around the world.
  • How to advance inclusive journalism in newsrooms everywhere.
  • How to ensure emerging technology helps newsrooms advance their missions.

“We have partnerships in over 52 countries around the world, we train over 500,000 journalists a year on our technology, and we do research and coercion building,” Grove said. “We try to find the innovative ways to move the industry forward, where Google can do the most good with news organisations.”

To help media companies identify trustworthy content and combat misinformation, News Lab wants to make sure news organisations know how to use its technology to discover and debunk false news and misinformation.

“Part of it, also, is building programmes that bring journalists together to do that, collaboratively,” Grove added. “One of the things we’re doing more and more around the world is creating these collaborative newsrooms around elections, where we’re bringing together a group of journalists, empowering them with our technology and tools through training, and build a sort of collaborative workflow around identifying the rising fake news memes around that election to be debunked — and to be corrected.”

Doing this has been a way to get ahead of the fake news challenge during critical moments in politics, he said.

“We’ve found this kind of collaborative model of journalism, with technologies and news organisations to be really powerful.”

When it comes to strengthening local news, Grove has seen a lot of success with a community reporting model called “Where by us.”   

“It starts with a really basic idea around creating a newsletter that goes out to what they call ‘curious locals’ that gives them another piece of information they need in their town. It’s a very lightweight staffing plan. It’s got a community manager and an editor, and they both do some reporting and curation, and build these really powerful and jam-packed newsletters that people subscribe to. Doesn’t cost a lot of money, no print cost involved, they’re kind of starting with none of the legacy costs of local news.”

Grove said the model is really starting to take off in several United States cities.

News Lab is also working with many non-profit organisations, such as Report For America, to help new models for local non-profit news to advance. The goal is to make reporting a “call to service” activity.

“The thing about local news is, you’ve got to try all different kinds of stuff to re-imagine it at a time when it’s been a real challenge, and so we want to do more and more of it,” Grove said.