Google tools for journalists: Part 1

byAmy Webb
Jul 20, 2010 in Digital Journalism

Google, the pioneer of the expedited online search, is now revolutionizing tools that can be used by journalists to simplify and improve reporting. For each free application, users must have a Google account.

Tools to simplify reporting

Google Voice allows users to choose a new phone number that will consolidate any existing phone numbers including mobile, landline and Voice over IP numbers under that one number. Users can select a  desired area code and include their own personal name or a word such as "news" or "tip" in the number.

Users can then organize their contacts and choose which phones should ring for particular groups and individual people. This also simplifies call screening; users can adjust which callers are immediately sent to voicemail.

Perhaps most useful to journalists is the program’s ability to record phone calls and store them online. During the call, users can press “4,” which, as required in some states, notifies both callers that the conversation is being recorded. These recordings can then be embedded on websites.

iGoogle, a relatively standard Google feature, has improved a number of its functions. Users can create this home page and add a number of useful new tools like Google Translate, a unit and currency converter and a people finder for addresses and phone numbers. The page also aggregates user-selected RSS feeds.

Searching and researching for stories

Google has also made it easier to search for stories and leads and to facilitate the necessary research for those topics. Custom searches are completed faster than ever with Google Chrome, which starts up and loads complicated web applications more quickly than other browsers and allows searches to be completed in the navigation bar. It also offers an incognito browsing mode that doesn’t record visited sites and downloaded files in the browser’s history.

Google Alerts can be utilized to find new stories, check for popularity of current assignments and follow developing or ongoing stories. Each alert consists of specific terms selected by the user. When those terms appear together on the internet, the user receives an e-mail alert with a link to the source. Google Alerts draw from a wide number of sources across the internet, including blogs, which provides a wide variety of opinions and information on the topic. For more exclusive searches, Advanced Google Alerts can narrow searches down by domain or particular website.

Journalists seeking credible news sources can utilize GoogleNews to search more than 4,500 English-language news sources for the past 30 days. Unlike regular Google searches or Alerts, Google News only draws from mainstream media from around the world.

Google Trends breaks down the search patterns of all Google users, putting popular topics at journalists’ fingertips. Users can search for how often their one to five search terms have appeared in Google News stories and in which geographic regions people have searched for them. Similarly, Hot Searches displays the top 20 fastest-rising searches in the U.S. for that particular day and Hot Topics conglomerates topics with the most attention in the news, on Twitter and other sources.