Monday, September 08, 2008

On Google

I’ve been a journalist by trade for over seven and a half years now and ever since I started out I’ve had a handy tool at my disposal – and it is called Google. Some of the senior journalists I know bemoan the rise and rise of this ‘Google Generation’ using contrived facts and figures and blindly narrating or writing those facts as the absolute truth, but I can’t imagine not using Google. Even though, nothing, absolutely nothing beats the remarkable impact that the mobile phone has had, especially in India.
I really don’t think Google is that bad as a tool. Sometimes when I have to find numbers and the government of India for one usually puts out their numbers in some hidden table somewhere on the world wide web, Google is a boon. Or for finding out email addresses or mobile phone numbers. Popping a simple search string into Google can save you the headache of asking around for numbers.
Especially since we might work with colleagues who treat their phone books as a state secret. I’m lucky that I don’t work with such people, but some of you in the profession know exactly what I’m talking about – heck, I’ve heard cases of journalists actually calling up their contacts and insisting that they don’t speak with the new kid. Google has been an equaliser in those respects.
Sure, some of those on the ‘Free Tibet’ side of things argue about Google’s ethics when it comes to China, but then again India’s ethics with China are equally bad, even though we now have proof that they tried to sabotage things at Vienna. Of course, our diplomacy with certain states is suspect, particularly given our own vibrant and positively chaotic democracy, but that isn’t the point.
The point I’m trying to make is that I don’t think I would have been able to do a lot of the stories that I have done over the years without the amazing search engine or the internet for that matter. Sure, it has spawned a whole generation of extremely lazy folks who take Google and its search results as the absolute truth. When I say we can’t trust what we read sometimes it is because people have copied passages verbatim from Wikipedia via Google or film critics have taken entire passages after searching for ‘(Insert Movie Name) review’. And worse!
But Google has also given a voice to the dispossessed and downtrodden as well as those who disagree with the general point of view laid out by pretty PR types.
Sure, I don’t particularly like Chrome. I’m far too used to needing a toolbar, and despite claims of propriety, using a Google browser gives me the heebie-jeebies when it comes to privacy concerns. Not that Google couldn’t know what I did once I logged into a service provided by the big G, such as Gmail or Google Reader.
But on the whole, I think Google has helped Journalism, particularly in a time of shortening deadlines and the battle for sound-bytes you could always fire up your computer and find a nice familiar web-page. Google. Heck, I’m switching back to Firefox and I continue to love Windows and MSN Live Search isn’t that bad. But Google is like this good friend online (though pagerank manipulators still exist – though they’re called Search Engine Optimisation companies) which usually tells you what you need to know.

6 comments:

J said...

More on Google: http://www.labnol.org/internet/search/google-scans-old-printed-newspapers/4458/

Anonymous said...

I once caught a reporter at the well known national newspaper where I worked, who had lifted entire stories from a well known American newspaper. When I read the report something didn’t quite click. Call it the natural cynicism and suspicion that come naturally to scribes who’ve worked long enough, I picked a line, and pasted it on google and up came a very interesting story written by a well journalist from an American newspaper! And this happened not once but thrice. I brought it up with the editor, but the trangresssions were overlooked each time because he was the editor's blue-eyed boy. So much for journalistic ethics! The culprit is now a correspondent of a well known TV channel.

Anonymous said...

I worked at a Mumbai tabloid which has seen better times under a Parsi editor who passed away in 2001. Our office had just one PC with an Internet connection.. and all journos fought for the hot-seat. On bad days stories never without some google and gTalk help!

Anonymous said...

It's the new age journalism..as these fellows say.

Renjith Nair said...

I would like to comment that, most of the Indian Media is politically biased, especially when it comes to BJP rules states they are surprisingly misleading the readers and viewers in this country. Infact, in my true knowledge BJP ruled states are doing well in all aspects compare to other states.We know that there is not a single news paper or visual media which is not run by a family in this country.If you consider CNN-IBN it is the most visibly biased visual media channel ever India have seen, so obsessed with Gandhi dynasty,Rajdeep and his Wife Sagarika is totally after Narendra Modi and BJP. If Modi sneezes it is a headline story in CNN-IBN!.if you consider NDTV prannoy roy is trying his best to be a pseudo-secularist. But if we closely watch each of their programs it is increasingly getting biased and a person with common sense can understand what is going on behind the scene.Prannoy Roy and Barkha Dutta believes they are the only intellectuals left in this country!.If you look at the news papers, we know the history of Indian express. What role Goenka played in Indian politics utilizing his family run news paper business.Vir Sanghvi of Hindustantimes ( Late KK Birla is a staunch congressman) is all the way praising Sonia Madam as if his career itself is pledged for that cause. A fair exemption can be made for Times of India ,I don’t know If I am correct.Otherwise there is a serious conspiracy going on this country by these new founded intellectual Pseudo Secularists.We must be able to differentiate what is right and what is wrong as these channels are targeting young urban population mixing news with bit of masalas. They are not aware that their credibility and neutrality is being lost infront of the masses.In India Media ethics is a neglected truth.It is the era of family run businesses for personal and political gains.Who care where this will lead the country to?????

Yash said...

Hey Hey Google is not only the story or something mobile no searching engine , its very well a giant giant of web & increasing day by day & their young CEO make it grow like anything.