Category Archives: Google News Blog

The official blog from the team at Google News

Fact-checking the French election: lessons from CrossCheck, a collaborative effort to combat misinformation

Nine months ago, 37 newsrooms worked together to combat misinformation in the run-up to the French Presidential election. Organized by First Draft, and supported by the Google News Lab, CrossCheck launched a virtual newsroom, where fact-checkers collaborated to verify disputed online content and share fact-checked information back to the public.


The initiative was a part of the News Lab’s broader effort to help journalists curb the spread of misinformation during important cultural and political moments. With a recent study finding that nearly 25% of all news stories about the French Presidential election shared on social media were fake, it was important for French newsrooms to work closely together to combat misinformation in a timely fashion. 


Yesterday at our office in Paris, alongside many of the newsrooms who took part in the initiative, we released a report on the project produced by academics from the University of Toulouse and Grenoble Alpes University. The report explored the impact the project had on the newsrooms and journalists involved, and the general public.

  A few themes emerged from the report:

  • Accuracy in reporting rises above competition. While news organizations operate in a highly competitive landscape, there was broad agreement that “debunking work should not be competitive” and should be “considered a public service." That spirit was echoed by the willingness of 100 journalists to work together and share information for ten weeks leading up to Election Day. Many of the journalists talked about the sense of pride they felt doing this work together. As one journalist put it, “debunking fake news is not a scoop.”    
  • The initiative helped spread best practices around verification for journalists. Journalists interviewed for the report discussed the value of the news skills the picked up around fact-checking, image verification, and video authentication—and the lasting impact that would have on their work. One journalist noted, “I strengthened my reflexes, I progressed in my profession, in fact-checking, and gained efficiency and speed working with user generated content.” 
  • Efforts to ensure accuracy in reporting are important for news consumers. The project resonated with many news consumers who saw the effort as independent, impartial and credible (reinforced by the number of news organizations that participated).  By the end of the election, the CrossCheck blog hit nearly 600,000 page views, had roughly 5K followers on Twitter 180K followers on Facebook (where its videos amassed 1.2M views). As one news reader noted, ““many people around me were convinced that a particular piece of misinformation was true before I demonstrated the opposite to them,” said one person. “This changed how they voted.”

You can learn more about the News Lab’s efforts to work with the news industry to increase trust and fight misinformation here.

Identifying credible content online, with help from the Trust Project

Every day approximately 50,000 web pages filled with information come online—ranging from the weird, the wonderful and the wacky to the serious, the subjective, and the spectacular.

With a plethora of choices out there, we rely on algorithms to sort and rank all this information to help us find content that is authoritative and comes from credible sources. A constantly changing web means we won’t ever achieve perfection, but we’re investing in helping people understand what they’re reading by providing visual signposts and labels.  

We add clear labelling to stories in Google News (e.g., opinion, local, highly cited, in depth), and over year ago we launched the Fact Check tag globally in Google News and Search. And just recently we added information to our Knowledge Panels to help people get a quick insight into publishers.

Today, we’re announcing a move toward a similar labeling effort by the Trust Project, which is hosted at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. The Project, which is funded by Google among others, has been working with more than 75 news organizations from around the world to come up with indicators to help people distinguish the difference between quality journalism and promotional content or misinformation.

In a first step, the Project has released eight trust indicators that newsrooms can add to their content. This information will help readers understand more about what type of story they’re reading, who wrote it, and how the article was put together.

These eight indicators include:

  • Best Practices: Who funds the news outlet and their mission, plus an outlet’s commitments to ethics, diverse voices, accuracy, making corrections, and other standards.
  • Author Expertise: Details about the journalist, including their expertise and other stories they have worked on.
  • Type of Work: Labels to distinguish opinion, analysis, and advertiser (or sponsored) content from news reports.
  • Citations and References: For investigative or in-depth stories, access to the sources behind the facts and assertions in a news story.
  • Methods: For in-depth stories, information about why reporters chose to pursue a story and how they went about the process.
  • Locally Sourced: Lets people know that the story has local roots, origin, or expertise.
  • Diverse Voices: A newsroom’s efforts to bring in diverse perspectives.
  • Actionable Feedback: A newsroom’s efforts to engage the public in setting coverage priorities, contributing to the reporting process, and ensuring accuracy.
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The publishers involved in this work include the BBC, dpa, The Economist, The Globe and Mail, Hearst Television, Mic, La Repubblica, La Stampa, The Washington Post, the New York Times and more. (Photo courtesy of the Trust Project.)

News publishers embed markup from schema.org into the HTML code of their articles and on their website. When tech platforms like Google crawl the content, we can easily parse out the information (such as Best Practices, Author Info, Citations & References, Type of Work). This works like the ClaimReview schema tag we use for fact-checking articles. Once we’ve done that, we can analyze the information and present it directly to the user in our various products.


Our next step is to figure out how to display these trust indicators next to articles that may appear on Google News, Google Search, and other Google products where news can be found. Some possible treatments could include using the “Type of Work” indicator to improve the accuracy of article labels in Google News, and indicators such as “Best Practices” and “Author Info” in our Knowledge Panels.


We believe this is a great first step for the Trust Project and look forward to future efforts as well.

Our efforts to help protect journalists online

Safety and security online is important for all of our users, but especially for journalists in the field conducting difficult—sometimes dangerous—reporting.


Journalists are susceptible to a number of risks. Reporters covering oppressive regimes or working in regions where freedom of the press is limited have been targeted by government-backed attackers. Newsrooms have fallen victim to phishing attempts by malicious hackers trying to steal their account passwords. Entire news sites have been taken down by DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. And journalists’ data is increasingly at risk from cyber attacks.


Despite this elevated risk, according to a recent study of more than 2,700 newsroom managers and journalists from 130 countries, at least half of those surveyed don’t use any tools or methods to protect their data and information online. Given the importance of journalism to open societies everywhere, we want to ensure that newsrooms and journalists are equipped with the tools and training they need to be successful—and safe—while doing their work. In the past, we’ve written about how anyone can protect their Google accounts and minimize security risks while using our products. But to address online safety for journalists, we’ve worked with the Jigsaw team and engineers from across the company to offer a few resources:

  • Project Shield helps protect news sites from DDoS attacks for free.
  • Digital Attack Map, a data visualization of DDoS attacks around the globe, can help journalists better understand the threat these attacks pose.
  • Password Alert helps protect and defend against password phishing attempts.
  • We offer trainings on safety and security, specifically focused on journalists. You can check out a recent webinar to help journalists understand whether they’re at at risk, and what to do about it.

We also offer the Advanced Protection program for journalists who are at heightened risk. You should look into this program if you answer “yes” to any of these questions:

  • Do you work in a hostile climate?
  • Do you feel that your sources need stronger protections against potential adversaries?
  • Do you get messages about government-backed attacks on Gmail?
  • Do you see suspicious activities around your account? (e.g., password recovery attempts not initiated by you)
  • Would your work be viewed as controversial by some people?

We encourage you to share these resources with your colleagues and friends, and talk to your IT department about what they’re doing to protect your newsroom’s data. It may be worth holding a security risk assessment training with your newsroom using the assets above, or request a training on safety and security for journalists (provided by the Google News Lab) at newslabsupport@google.com.

Google News Lab Fellows … Where are they now?

Five years ago, we created the News Lab Fellowship to connect up-and-coming reporters with nonprofit journalism organizations that use data and technology to report the news in different and interesting ways. Since then, we’ve expanded the program to 12 countries, and most recently, the fellowship in Germany, Switzerland and Austria offered placements for journalists and developers in 18 renowned media organizations. We put a special focus on diversity by granting fellowships to journalists with migrant backgrounds.

Jieqian Zhang (@Jieqian_Zhang), 2016 Fellow at the Center for Investigative Reporting

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What she's doing now: I am now a multimedia editor at the Wall Street Journal.

What made the News Lab Fellowship valuable: I got to work with some of the best data journalists in the industry, and learned how to use data, design and code to tell stories. The experience assured me that I wanted to pursue a career in interactive journalism.

Ben Mullin (@benmullin), 2014 Fellow at The Poynter Institute

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What he's doing now: I'm a reporter at The Wall Street Journal in New York, where I cover media and advertising.

What made the News Lab Fellowship valuable: Breaking into journalism on a national level is really hard, and I couldn't have done it without the Google News Lab Fellowship. This opportunity jump-started my career and gave me a toehold at a remarkable institution that ultimately hired me on full-time. I couldn't be more grateful.

Matt Baker (@phatmattbaker), 2016 Fellow at Fairfax Media in Sydney, Australia

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What he's doing now: I finally secured a tenure track university position! Officially I am now: Dr Matthew AB Baker, Scientia Research Fellow at UNSW Sydney

What made the News Lab Fellowship valuable: I learned how to better run a narrative thread through a data-driven story and use my scientific skills to improve reader experiences.

Daniel Funke (@dpfunke), 2017 Fellow at The Poynter Institute

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What he's doing now: I'm a reporter for the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, covering fake news, fact-checking and online misinformation around the world.

What made the News Lab Fellowship valuable: It was like compressing four years of journalism school into two and a half months—and made me an immeasurably better reporter. The Fellowship gave me the resources and training I needed to continue being a student of news, while also inspiring me to tackle some of its most pressing challenges.

Madeline Welsh (@madelinebwelsh), 2015 Fellow at Nieman Lab

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What she's doing now: I am working between editorial and production for a recently launched Google Earth feature called Voyager.

What made the News Lab Fellowship valuable: I worked specifically on a project for Nieman Lab looking at how newsrooms were approaching the increasing importance of mobile readership. That was important for the work I later was involved in at the Guardian Mobile Innovation Lab. The fellowship made possible my time at Nieman Lab, which in turn opened me up to a lot of the interesting projects happening in news now.

Stan Oklobdzija (@StanfromSD), 2014 fellow at The Sunlight Foundation

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What he's doing now: Finishing my doctoral dissertation in Political Science at UC San Diego

What made the News Lab Fellowship valuable: Working at Sunlight helped me connect the academic understanding of money in politics to the unfolding 2014 midterms to tell a fuller story about campaign finance. It also taught me to go beyond traditional data sources to track political money beyond FEC disclosures.

Lindsay Abrams (@readingirl), 2017 Fellow at Matter.vc

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What she's doing now: Finishing my final semester of graduate school at New York University's Studio 20 program, and in January, I'll be joining Matter full-time as Associate Producer, Media and Program Operations.

What made the News Lab Fellowship valuable: My background is in journalism, so my time spent at Matter exposed me to a whole new world of tech, entrepreneurship, venture capitalism and design thinking. It led me to an amazing job that I never would have thought to seek out had I not experienced it firsthand.

Christine Schmidt (@NewsBySchmidt), 2017 Fellow at Nieman Lab

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What she's doing now: I work as a full-time Staff Writer at Nieman Lab.

What made the News Lab Fellowship valuable: It connected me to the journalism editors, strategists, innovators, and devotees that I interviewed in my work. I had the opportunity to pick the brains of cool people doing cool journalism, and now I'm incredibly lucky to be able to do that full time as a staff writer at Nieman Lab.

Taylyn Washington-Harmon (@taylynharmon), 2016 Fellow at Nieman Lab

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What she's doing now: I’m an Associate Social Media Manager at SELF.com

What made the News Lab Fellowship valuable: This was the first chance i had to do a newsroom internship because previously all my spare time was spent running my own journalism start up. Working with Nieman Journalism Lab gave me the necessary newsroom experience to not only improve my skills as a social media editor but also learn valuable industry information to understand the future of journalism.

Building trust online by partnering with the International Fact Checking Network

With so much information available around the clock and across devices, the ability to quickly understand what’s true and what’s false online is increasingly important. That’s why a year ago, we introduced a new feature called the Fact Check tag, as a way to show people when a news publisher or fact check organization has verified or debunked a claim, statistic or statement.

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Today, thousands of fact check articles appear on Google in Search results, on Google News, and across the open web. Fact checking articles—when a journalist looks at one single statement or issue and either verifies or debunks it—is important in today's climate because it helps readers better understand viral news stories and relevant issues. That’s why we’re supporting the organizations who do the hard work of fact checking so that we can make it available in Google Search.


Today we’re announcing a new partnership with the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) at The Poynter Institute. As a nonpartisan organization, IFCN is committed to promoting excellence in fact checking and building a community of fact checkers around the world. IFCN has developed a widely accepted Code of Principles for fact check organizations. Signatories range from the Associated Press to the Washington Post, PolitiFact and Factcheck.org, to Correctiv (Germany), Aos Fatos (Brazil), and Africa Check.


Our partnership with IFCN will focus on these key areas with a global point of view:

  • Increasing the number of verified fact checkers through a combination of efforts, ranging from holding global fact check workshops to offering coaching and stipends for new fact checking organizations. Ultimately, these partners can help make sure that the content on Google Search and Google News has been accurately fact checked.
  • Expanding fact checking to more regions by translating the Code of Principles into ten languages and ensuring credible fact checkers can apply to participate in the IFCN community.
  • Providing fact-checking tools, at no cost, to the IFCN community. We’ll also offer trainings and access to an engineering time bank. Volunteer engineers will attend the annual Global Fact-Checking Summit to spend a day helping fact checkers develop software solutions to boost their impact or gain other efficiencies.

Through partnerships with organizations like the IFCN, we hope this gives people a better understanding of the information they are about to click on online.

Who works in America’s newsrooms?

Over the course of two decades, the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) has compiled a national view of gender and race breakdowns of U.S. journalists. The newly released 2017 data helps us understand who is working in America’s newsrooms, and provides a unique insight into how the industry reflects—or struggles to reflect—the population it serves.

The Google News Lab supports inclusive reporting, and for the first time, has partnered with ASNE on their annual Newsroom Employment Diversity Survey. Working with design studio Polygraph, we helped ASNE create a data visualization to show how hundreds of newsrooms across the U.S. have changed since 2001.

Here's a glimpse at how it works:

Check out our graphics, or download the data from our GitHub page to explore for yourself. We want to see what you can do with the data—by visualizing it yourself or adding further context to the numbers—so contact us at newslabtrends@google.com.

We hope this year’s reimagined data will advance the conversation on newsroom diversity and tell a story that’s broader than just the numbers.

Driving the future of digital subscriptions

Journalism provides accurate and timely information when it matters most, shaping our understanding of important issues and pushing us to learn more in search of the truth. People come to Google looking for high-quality content, and our job is to help them find it. However, sometimes that content is behind a paywall.

While research has shown that people are becoming more accustomed to paying for news, the sometimes painful process of signing up for a subscription can be a turn off. That’s not great for users or for news publishers who see subscriptions as an increasingly important source of revenue.

To address these problems we’ve been talking to news publishers about how to support their subscription businesses with a focus on the following:

  • First, Flexible Sampling will replace First Click Free. Publishers are in the best position to determine what level of free sampling works best for them. So as of this week, we are ending the First Click Free policy, which required publishers to provide a minimum of three free articles per day via Google Search and Google News before people were shown a paywall.
  • Longer term, we are building a suite of products and services to help news publishers reach new audiences, drive subscriptions and grow revenue.
  • We are also looking at how we can simplify the purchase process and make it easy for Google users to get the full value of their subscriptions across Google’s platforms.

Our goal is to make subscriptions work seamlessly everywhere, for everyone.

First Click Free

We will end our First Click Free policy in favor of a Flexible Sampling model where publishers will decide how many, if any, free articles they want to provide to potential subscribers based on their own business strategies. This move is informed by our own research, publisher feedback, and months-long experiments with the New York Times and the Financial Times, both of which operate successful subscription services.  

"Google's decision to let publishers determine how much content readers can sample from search is a positive development,” said Kinsey Wilson, an adviser to New York Times CEO Mark Thompson. "We're encouraged as well by Google's willingness to consider other ways of supporting subscription business models and we are looking forward to continuing to work with them to craft smart solutions."

Publishers generally recognize that giving people access to some free content is the way to persuade people to buy their product. The typical approach to sampling is a model called metering, which lets people see a pre-determined number of free stories before a paywall kicks in. We recommend the following approach:

  • Monthly, rather than daily, metering allows publishers more flexibility to experiment with the number of free stories to offer people and to target those more likely to subscribe.
  • For most publishers, 10 articles per month is a good starting point.
  • Please see our Webmaster blog and our guide on Flexible Sampling for more detail on these approaches.

“Try before you buy” underlines what many publishers already know—they need to provide some form of free sampling to be successful on the internet. If it’s too little, then fewer users will click on links to that content or share it, which could have an effect on brand discovery and subsequently may affect traffic over time.

Subscription support

Subscribing to great content should not be as hard as it is today. Registering on a site, creating and remembering multiple passwords, and entering credit card information—these are all hassles we hope to solve.

As a first step we’re taking advantage of our existing identity and payment technologies to help people subscribe on a publication’s website with a single click, and then seamlessly access that content anywhere— whether it’s on that publisher site or mobile app, or on Google Newsstand, Google Search or Google News.

And since news products and subscription models vary widely, we’re collaborating with publishers around the world on how to build a subscription mechanism that can meet the needs of a diverse array of approaches—to the benefit of the news industry and consumers alike.  

We’re also exploring how Google’s machine learning capabilities can help publishers recognize potential subscribers and present the right offer to the right audience at the right time.

“It's extremely clear that advertising alone can no longer pay for the production and distribution of high quality journalism—and at the same time the societal need for sustainable independent journalism has never been greater.  Reader-based revenue, aka paid-content, or subscription services, are therefore not just a nice-to-have, but an essential component of a publisher's revenue composition,” said Jon Slade, FT Chief Commercial Officer.

“The Financial Times is welcoming of Google's input and actions to help this critical sector of the media industry, and we've worked very closely with Google to aid understanding of the needs that publishers have and how Google can help. That mutual understanding includes the ability to set controls over the amount of free content given to readers, a level playing field for content discovery, optimised promotion and payment processes. It is important that we now build and accelerate on the discussions and actions to date.”  

We are just getting started and want to get as much input from publishers—large, small, national, local, international—to make sure we build solutions together that work for everyone.  

How publishers can take advantage of machine learning

As the publishing world continues to face new challenges amidst the shift to digital, news media and publishers are tasked with unlocking new opportunities. With online news consumption continuing to grow, it’s crucial that publishers take advantage of new technologies to sustain and grow their business. Machine learning yields tremendous value for media and can help them tackle the hardest problems: engaging readers, increasing profits, and making newsrooms more efficient. Google has a suite of machine learning tools and services that are easy to use—here are a few ways they can help newsrooms and reporters do their jobs

1. Improve your newsroom's efficiency 

Editors want to make their stories appealing and to stand out so that people will read them. So finding just the right photograph or video can be key in bringing a story to life. But with ever-pressing deadlines, there’s often not enough time to find that perfect image. This is where Google Cloud Vision and Video Intelligence can simplify the process by tagging images and videos based on the content inside the actual image. This metadata can then be used to make it easier and quicker to find the right visual.

2.  Better understand your audience

News publishers use analytics tools to grow their audiences, and understand what that audience is reading and how they’re discovering content. Google Cloud Natural Language uses machine learning to understand what your content is about, independent of a website’s section and subsection structure (i.e. Sports, Local, etc.) Today, Cloud Natural Language announced a new content classifier and entity sentiment that digs into the detail of what a story is actually about. For example, an article about a high-tech stadium for the Golden State Warriors may be classified under the “technology” section of a paper, when its content should fall under “technology” and “sports.” This section-independent tagging can increase readership by driving smarter article recommendations and provides better data around trending topics. Naveed Ahmad, Senior Director of Data at Hearst has emphasized that precision and speed are critical to engaging readers: “Google Cloud Natural Language is unmatched in its accuracy for content classification. At Hearst, we publish several thousand articles a day across 30+ properties and, with natural language processing, we're able to quickly gain insight into what content is being published and how it resonates with our audiences."

3. Engage with new audiences

As publications expand their reach into more countries, they have to write for multiple audiences in different languages and many cannot afford multi-language desks. Google Cloud Translation makes translating for different audiences easier by providing a simple interface to translate content into more than 100 languages. Vice launched GoogleFish earlier this year to help editors quickly translate existing Vice articles into the language of their market. Once text was auto-translated, an editor could then push the translation to a local editor to ensure tone and local slang were accurate. Early translation results are very positive and Vice is also uncovering new insights around global content sharing they could not previously identify.

DB Corp, India’s largest newspaper group, publishes 62 editions in four languages and sells about 6 million newspaper copies per day. To address its growing customers and its diverse readership, reporters use Google Cloud Translation to capture and document interviews and source material for articles, with accuracy rates of 95 percent for Hindi alone.

4. Monetize your audience

So far we’ve primarily outlined ways to improve content creation and engagement with readers, however monetization is a critical piece for all publishers. Using Cloud Datalab, publishers can identify new subscription opportunities and offerings. The metadata collected from image, video, and content tagging creates an invaluable dataset to advertisers, such as audiences interested in local events or personal finance, or those who watch videos about cars or travel. The Washington Post has seen success with their in-house solution through the ability to target native ads to likely interested readers. Lastly, improved content recommendation drives consumption, ultimately improving the bottom line.

5. Experiment with new formats

The ability to share news quickly and efficiently is a major concern for newsrooms across the world. However today more than ever, readers are reading the news in different ways across different platforms and the “one format fits all” method is not always best. TensorFlow’s “summary.text” feature can help publishers quickly experiment with creating short form content from longer stories. This helps them quickly test the best way to share their content across different platforms. Reddit recently launched a similar “tl;dr bot” that summarizes long posts into digestible snippets.

6. Keep your content safe for everyone

The comments section can be a place of both fruitful discussion as well as toxicity. Users who comment are frequently the most highly engaged on the site overall, and while publishers want to keep sharing open, it can frequently spiral out of control into offensive speech and bad language. Jigsaw’s Perspective is an API that uses machine learning to spot harmful comments which can be flagged for moderators. Publishers like the New York Times have leveraged Perspective's technology to improve the way all readers engage with comments. By making the task of moderating conversations at scale easier, this frees up valuable time for editors and improves online discussion.

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Example of New York Time’s moderator dashboard. Each dot represents a negative comment

From the printing press to machine learning, technology continues to spur new opportunities for publishers to reach more people, create engaging content and operate efficiently. We're only beginning to scratch the surface of what machine learning can do for publishers. Keep tabs on The Keyword for the latest developments.

Supporting local journalism with Report for America

I cut my teeth in journalism as a local reporter for my hometown paper, the Northfield News, and saw firsthand how local journalism impacts a community. Local reporters go to city council meetings to hold city governments accountable. They’re the first to show up when disaster strikes, getting critical information to their readers. And they provide the first draft of history for cities and towns, providing reporting that keeps their communities safe, informed and connected.


But not all communities in the U.S. are fortunate enough to have a strong local media presence—declining sales and revenues have led to local papers closing and local newsrooms shrinking. Despite this gloomy picture, there are lots of ideas about how to strengthen the local news ecosystem, and today we’re announcing our support of one new approach: Report for America.


An initiative of The GroundTruth Project, Report for America is taking its inspiration from Teach for America and applying it to local journalism. Its goal is to attract service-minded candidates and place them in local newsrooms for a year as reporters.


The first pilot, which will start early next year, aims to fill 12 reporting positions in newsrooms across the country, in areas underserved by local media. There will also be a community element to the work—a reporter might also help a local high school start or improve their student-run news site or newspaper.


As a founding member of this exciting initiative, the Google News Lab will provide in-depth training to the Report for America Corps members focusing on digital and data journalism, and equip them with the proper technology—Chromebooks, 360-degree cameras, and mobile phones.


Joining us in supporting Report for America are the Knight Foundation, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, Galloway Family Foundation, Solutions Journalism Network and the Center for Investigative Reporting.


Report for America is just one part of our efforts to strengthen local news here at Google. Here are a few others:

  • To provide the proper exposure for local news outlets covering national stories, Google News labels those stories so readers can easily find on-the-ground reporting. Additionally we’ve made it easier for people to follow local news sources with a dedicated local tab on the Google News home page. And just last week, in the U.S., Google News went hyperlocal by adding clearly labeled Community Updates that provide information about news and events happening in your area so you’ll always know what’s going on.
  • We want to help publishers succeed financially by monetizing their content online. We have a key partnership with the Local Media Consortium—which represents more than 1,600 local media outlets—to tap into the power of our ad technology to fund and support local journalism. At their annual summit the LMC announced combined savings and revenue of more than $110 million for partners, based on that collaboration with Google.
  • At the Google News Lab, journalism training is an important component of the work we do to help journalists and newsrooms develop new skills and access the latest digital tools. Through  a partnership with the Society for Professional Journalists we’ve trained more than 9,500 local reporters across America in the last year alone. And a collaboration with the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal Labs has helped build the capacity of investigative teams in Mississippi and New Jersey, a model we’re looking to scale in 2018.

We hope Report for America will bring fresh thinking and a new approach to strengthening local news.

The state of data journalism in 2017

Data journalism has been a big focus for us at the Google News Lab over the past three years—in building tools, creating content and sharing data with the data journalism community. We wanted to see if we’re taking the right approach: how big is data journalism, what challenges do data journalists face and how is it going to change?

Up until today, we really haven’t had clear answers to those questions. So, in collaboration with PolicyViz, we conducted a series of in-depth qualitative interviews and an online survey to better understand how journalists use data to tell stories. We conducted 56 detailed in-person interviews with journalists in the U.S., UK, Germany and France and an online survey of more than 900 journalists. Our analysis offers a glimpse into the state of data journalism in 2017 and highlights key challenges for the field moving forward. 

The result is one of the first comprehensive studies of the field and its activity. A decade ago, data journalists there was only handful of data journalists. 

Today, this research shows that:

  • 42% of reporters use data to tell stories regularly (twice or more per week).
  • 51% of all news organizations in the U.S. and Europe now have a dedicated data journalist—and this rises to 60% for digital-only platforms.
  • 33% of journalists use data for political stories, followed by 28% for finance and 25% for investigative stories.

There is a big international variation, even within our study. In France, 56% of newsrooms have  a data journalist, followed by Germany with 52%, the UK with 52%, and the U.S. with 46%. Despite its huge growth, data journalism still faces challenges as we head towards 2018.

  • 53% of the sample saw data journalism as a speciality skill that requires extensive training, and is not easy to pick up.

  • Survey respondents also discussed the time pressures they face and the limited bandwidth from dedicated data journalists who can clean, process, and analyze data. We found that 49% of data stories are created in a day or less.

  • Our research also found that data visualization tools are not keeping up with the pace of innovation. As a result, reporters are building their own solutions: a fifth of data journalists use in-house tools and software, whether it’s data visualization tools or even data cleaning solutions.

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More than half of respondents want their organizations to use more data to tell stories. But, some felt the return on investment was unclear as the production of data journalism can take significant time and resources.


The future of data journalism, though, has never been as important as it is today, nor as much a part of the way journalists work every day, as this study shows. As one of our interviewees put it:


We heard from one data journalist in the U.S. that “data is a good way of getting to the truth of things ... in this post-truth era, this work is increasingly important. We are all desperately searching for facts.”