Five Google tools journalists don't use but should

by Margaret Looney
Oct 30, 2018 in Data Journalism

You may think you know Google, but here are lesser-known tools that can help journalists with everything from reporting on natural disasters to hunting for new sources.

Google featured these tools in a recent digital media training session for Pakistani journalists hosted by the International Center for Journalists. The session was led by Sean Carlson, global communications manager, and Robert Boorstin, the director of public policy for the global search company.

IJNet found these five tools that can simplify reporting and give stories a dynamic approach:

Google Moderator – It’s the perfect tool for crowdsourcing story ideas. By creating a "series" with the tool and embedding it on your website, you can pose questions to an international audience and receive opinions, ideas or quotes for a story on deadline. You can create polls using the “featured question” tool to get a quick survey of interest. Anyone can submit responses and the administrator can decide whether to permit anonymous responses or Youtube video submissions. For tips on best practices, click here.

Public Data Explorer – After browsing through available stats found online, use this data visualization tool to find a story in the numbers. The tool converts the data into maps and charts that can be embedded or linked to accompany a story. Google provides a dataset directory to get you started, featuring numbers from organizations like the World Bank, the U.S. Census Bureau and the International Monetary Fund. You can upload your own dataset, but for collaborative projects with interactive possibility Google has a different tool - Fusion Tables.

Fusion Tables – When you’re dealing with intense heaps of data that took months to independently gather, you can use this tool to visualize and publish your data to find clear patterns. Upload your data to see it represented instantly on a map, timeline or chart and embed it on your website all within minutes. You can make your dataset visible to the online community. You can give users with different datasets the option to contribute by merging their information. The Guardian DataBlog uses fusion tables in their stories about Mexican drug war murders, 2010 elections and others.

Insights for Search – This tool enables you to identify search volume patterns across different parameters including category, region, time frame or product type to find out what is piquing peoples’ interests and when and where it’s happening. These patterns enable you to track developing trends, providing potential story ideas and a pool of sources.

Crisis Response – This tool makes critical information more accessible in the aftermath of natural disasters. Journalists on the ground can use updated satellite imagery and maps of the affected areas making the terrain easier to navigate, as well as getting the latest news and updates.

Tools like Person Finder help to reconnect people who became separated in the chaos. Journalists can act as responders supplying the open platform with information or data collected. Crisis Response has been used during the Japan earthquake, the Pakistan floods and more.