Author Archives: Ashley Edwards

Supporting media literacy with new partnerships

From the COVID-19 pandemic to the climate crisis, we’ve seen how misinformation can have catastrophic consequences. Misleading information can spread among family and friends, impacting not only the way people see the world and relate to each other, but the decisions they make for their health, and for their loved ones and communities.

Separating fact from fiction online has gotten more difficult, and no generation is immune: A 2019 Pew Research study found that only 26% of U.S. adults could identify a factual statement from an opinion. A Stanford University study from the same year found that two-thirds of high school students surveyed couldn’t tell the difference between news stories and sponsored content.

Communities need to be able to spot a fake story when they see it and stop it in its tracks. That’s why today, the Google News Initiative (GNI) is building on our commitment to strengthen media literacy in the U.S. through partnerships with PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs, the News Literacy Project, and Poynter’s MediaWise program.

Bridging generations with PBS Student Reporting Labs

Started in 2009, PBS Student Reporting Labs (SRL) is a leader in the youth media landscape, currently operating in more than 160 classrooms and after-school programs across the U.S. Thousands of teachers have used SRL’s journalism, civic engagement and video production resources, which train students on the ins and outs of producing reliable news, learning journalism ethics, fact checking and engaging with their communities.

As part of our partnership, Student Reporting Labs will build educational resources to help teach young people how to have conversations about misinformation with older family members and friends. The hope is that new audiences, and those already familiar with PBS NewsHour and local public media station partners, will come together to help tackle misinformation.

“Through storytelling and co-production with students, we’ll explore the media literacy needs of different communities and generations, and how they can connect with each other to find solutions,” says SRL Founder Leah Clapman.

Expanding to rural communities with News Literacy Project

Through online classes, events and in-person visits to schools, the News Literacy Project (NLP) provides media literacy education to students, educators and the public. More than 300,000 students have completed lessons on NLP’s virtual classroom platform, Checkology, since its launch in 2016.

The Google News Initiative’s partnership will help the NLP bring their Newsroom to Classroom program to even more journalists and educators. NLP is now expanding into rural areas of California, Colorado, Texas, Iowa and Nebraska — places hit particularly hard by the decline in local news.

“News literacy is an essential skill for everyone everywhere in a healthy democracy,” Claudia Borgelt, Vice President of Development at NLP says. “Access to news literacy education should not be limited by a community’s zip code.”

Expanding Spanish-language resources with Poynter’s MediaWise

Our efforts extend beyond students and educators. The GNI was the original supporter of Poynter’s MediaWise project, which was initially focused on students and has since expanded to seniors. Launched in 2020, the MediaWise for Seniors program has trained more than half a million Americans to date.

We’re joining forces with the team again to translate their “How to Spot Misinformation Online” course into Spanish, and create a text-based version of the course that will be delivered via SMS, which is how many seniors find and share news.

Two mobile phones side by side. Both are showing a text message of paragraphs in Spanish, including various emojis like fire alarms and smiley faces.

“More than 41 million people in the U.S. speak Spanish at home,” says MediaWise Director Katy Byron. “Research shows that health and vaccine-related falsehoods and conspiracy theories are some of the most pervasive forms of misinformation targeting Hispanic communities. Making these Spanish-language educational resources available in multiple formats, on platforms popular with the 50+ Hispanic population, will help combat the Spanish language misinformation gap.”

Teaser trailer for an upcoming television segment on Telemundo about the new MediaWise project.

These partnerships build on Google’s other media literacy efforts around the world, including a €25 million contribution to the European Media and Information Fund. Along with products like Fact Check Explorer and the “about this result” feature in Search, Google is committed to equipping people with the skills they need to stop the spread of misinformation and sort fact from fiction online.

A training network to support diversity in journalism

Since 2015, Google and our partners have trained more than 400,000 journalists around the world. Last year in the United States through the Google News Initiative, our training was focused on giving journalists the tools necessary to cover the 2020 presidential election. This year, we’re continuing our training efforts with our trusted partners to train a diverse range of journalists across the U.S. in digital skills, media literacy and skills in covering marginalized communities.

In partnership with the Society of Professional Journalists, the Native American Journalists Association, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association, we’ll be training professional and student journalists on tools like Google Trends and Pinpoint, as well as relying on the expertise of our association partners to help connect journalists of color to valuable training resources. With the help of NAHJ, our training materials will also be translated into Spanish.

Cultural competency in reporting will be a key aspect of the trainings our partners lead, because true diversity needs to include not only who is telling the story, but also how the story is told. As part of our ongoing partnership, the Native American Journalists Association will also be creating an Indigenous Media Directory, which will connect journalists and readers to indigenous-led outlets. 

“As we shifted our approach from in-person to virtual during the pandemic, we were able to deliver training to more tribal media and mainstream newsrooms and connect with members and allies across Indian Country from Alaska to New York to Winnipeg,” says Rebecca Landsbury-Baker, Executive Director of NAJA. “We are grateful for the continued support of this important work under the NAJA Red Press Initiative.”

To learn more about our training network and resources and to request a newsroom training, visit our training center website.

Introducing Google News Initiative Conversations

This year, the way many of us work has changed dramatically. We’ve gone from lunch meetings and large networking conferences to meeting virtually from our makeshift home offices. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly upended a lot of this, but that doesn’t mean sharing ideas is on hold, too. That’s especially true for the Google News Initiative team; our commitment to helping journalism thrive is still just as strong. 

That’s why we’ve launched Google News Initiative Conversations, a new video series in which we bring together industry experts and our partners from around the world to discuss the successes, challenges and opportunities facing the news industry. Since March 2018, the GNI has worked with more than 6,250 news partners in 118 countries, several of which are featured in the series.

Over the course of four episodes, we cover the themes of business sustainability, quality journalism, diversity, equity and inclusion and a look ahead to 2021 from a global perspective. Take a look at what the series has to offer:

Sustaining the News Industry, featuring: 

Miki King, Chief Marketing Officer of the Washington Post
Gary Liu, CEO of the South China Morning Post
Tara Lajumoke, Managing Director of FT Strategies
Megan Brownlow and Simon Crerar talk about local journalism in Australia.

Quality Journalism, featuring: 

Claire Wardle, U.S. Director, First Draft
Surabhi Malik and Syed Nazakat of FactShala India

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, featuring: 

Soledad O’Brien, CEO of Soledad O’Brien Productions
Drew Christie, Chair of BCOMS - the Black Collective of Media in U.K. Sport
Bryan Pollard, Associate Director of Native American Journalists Association
Kalhan Rosenblatt, Youth and Internet Culture Reporter at NBC News
Tania Montalvo, General Editor at Animal Político, Mexico 
Zack Weiner, President of Overtime

Innovation and the Future of News, featuring: 

Brad Bender, VP of Product at Google interviewed by broadcaster Tina Daheley  
Charlie Beckett, Professor in the Dept of Media and Communication at LSE
Agnes Stenborn, Responsible Data and AI Specialist
Christina Elmer, Editorial RnD at Der Spiegel

It’s uncertain when we’ll get to gather together in person again, but until then, we’ll continue learning, collaborating and innovating as we work towards a better future for news.

Our GNI Fellows are defying the newsroom status quo

In March, just as I was finalizing the webpage for the Google News Initiative Fellowship program, much of the United States—and the world—went into lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Offices, including my own, closed and employees began working from home. Businesses shut their doors. Colleges sent students home to continue their studies virtually.

For students and recent graduates, a summer that was supposed to be spent taking classes, studying abroad or starting their first post-grad job turned into one of uncertainty. Many summer internships were deferred or altogether canceled due to the virus. Every industry has been impacted by the coronavirus, including the news media, which is vital in spreading important information about not only the pandemic, but also the upcoming election. 

For me, delaying the program was not an option, especially because a lack of newsroom diversity can negatively impact coverage of the pandemic and racial unrest. Though nothing can necessarily replace an in-person experience, we decided to add a remote option for the program, giving fellows the flexibility to work from home or the host newsroom if it is safe to do so. 

We received 476 applications for nine fellowship slots, which speaks to the unprecedented demand for these opportunities for aspiring journalists of color. 

“There can be no excellence without diversity — in local news especially, there's a responsibility to speak to the issues and experiences of the (diverse) community you serve,” Ana Ta, who will be working at the Houston Press, told me. “My time working in local journalism has taught me to value my perspective as an Vietnamese Houstonian, and I'm excited and grateful for this opportunity with the GNI to tell the stories of my city.”

For Luis Méndez, who will be joining La Noticia, the fellowship is not just an opportunity for himself. “I want to be an example for boys and girls and show them that it doesn't matter if you are from a small island called Puerto Rico, opportunities like these are possible with perseverance, passion and commitment,” he says.

Our selected Fellows all have different backgrounds and experiences, but two things they all have in common is the desire to help make American newsrooms look more like the audiences they cover and to tell the stories of communities that have been ignored for far too long.

“Ever since I was young, I've been passionate about pursuing journalism because I knew that it might grant me an opportunity to serve as a representative voice for communities and people who feel as if they don't have one,” said Isthmusfellow Tamia Fowlkes. “I  feel so honored and excited to participate in this program and I hope it will work to amplify and encourage diversity both in the news and writing it."

To learn more about all of our 2020 Google News Initiative Fellows and follow their work, visit our Fellowship website.

The GNI Fellowship supports diversity in journalism

When I was in college, I was lucky enough to land one of the few paid internships available. I interned at CNN for their morning shows, heading into the Manhattan office at midnight— sometimes after working eight hours at my job at a bank. My shift usually ended at 8 a.m., after which I would head to my 10 a.m. class. 

It was certainly difficult—and exhausting—juggling a full-time course load, an internship, and working 30 hours a week. The internship gave me valuable experience and the connections to get my foot in the door at my first post-grad job. But I wouldn’t have been able to do the internship if it was unpaid, which is the case for many students who come from low-income backgrounds. Taking an unpaid internship at the expense of working is not practical or economically possible, leaving them at a disadvantage for a career in journalism down the road.

At this challenging time for the news industry, the Google News Initiative is launching its Fall fellowship program to ensure that students don’t have to choose between supporting themselves and pursuing their future careers. We launched the fellowship program in 2013 in North America for students interested in working at the intersection of technology, media, and journalism. The program has since expanded into 12 regions around the world.

Lack of internship and fellowship opportunities contributes to why many U.S. newsrooms don’t reflect the communities they cover. Less than a quarter of newsroom employees identify as a person of color, compared to the U.S. population (24 percent). When it comes to newsroom leadership, the number iseven lower. This has significant consequences: a 2014 study found that a majority of African-American and Latino news consumers didn’t trust the way their communities were portrayed in the media. With protests occurring around the U.S. due to police brutality and racial injustice, a diverse newsroom is even more essential to produce balanced, comprehensive and representative news coverage. 

With the help of the National Newspapers Publishers Association, the National Association of Hispanic Publishers, and the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, we’ve designed the fall program to address the barriers of access that students and graduates of color face when trying to get into the industry. 

The 10 to 12 week program is paid and selected fellows will also receive a travel stipend. All fellows, who will have the opportunity to work remotely, will be selected by nine host newsrooms: Eugene Weekly, Houston Press, Isthmus, al Día en America, La Noticia, Vida Newspaper, the Washington Informer, the Omaha Star and the NNPA Newsroom. Fellows will have the opportunity to work on editorial, revenue, and technology projects at the host publications. 

Applications close August, 1, 2020 at midnight Pacific Time. For full application requirements, visit the fellowship website here.