Citizen journalists in Prague: how does Google teach you better journalism?

In an article on ReadWriteWeb, 'Google Offering Training Services for Hyperlocal News in Europe', Marshall Kirkpatrick points out that Google is teaching a local news network in the Czech Republic how to use online (Google) tools to support for their investigative reporting.

He read about it on

"(…) The newsrooms-cum-cafes are part of a new venture in so-called
hyperlocal journalism, which aims to reconnect newspapers with readers
and advertisers by focusing on neighborhood concerns at a neighborhood
level (…)"

For Google it's an opportunity to build market share in online advertizing.

As Nicholas Carr wrote in his most insightful analysis of Google's strategy, 'The Omnigoogle':

"(…) If hot dogs became freebies, mustard sales would skyrocket. It’s this natural drive to reduce the cost of complements that, more than
anything else, explains Google’s strategy. Nearly everything the
company does, including building big data centers, buying optical
fiber, promoting free Wi-Fi access, fighting copyright restrictions,
supporting open source software, launching browsers and satellites, and
giving away all sorts of Web services and data, is aimed at reducing
the cost and expanding the scope of Internet use. Google wants
information to be free because as the cost of information falls it
makes more money. (…)"

Now, to the ReadWriteWeb poll, Do You Think the Web Industry Has An Interest or Obligation in Helping Old Models of Reporting Transition Online? , I'll say: "Yes I do." Definitely an interest, that's very clear when it comes to Google.

Whether the new industry has an obligation to help the transition, is more complicated. In my view, it is primarily the responsibility of the journalist profession to pull themselves up by their hair and relocate to the new reality. Jay Rosen has called this a 'Migration Point for the Press Tribe':

"Like reluctant migrants everywhere, the people in the news tribe have to decide what to take with them. When to leave. Where to land. They have to figure out what is essential to their way of life. They have to ask if what they know is portable."

In terms of corporate responsibility, I do think that web companies have an obligation to act in ways that support and help sustain forms of journalism which strengthen the workings of democracy. These may be new forms of journalism, and they may well compete with the "old models of reporting".

Marshall mentions the Lawrence Journal World as a well known model of effective local online reporting and closes by saying: "For more on this general topic, I'm going to listen to this collection of podcasts by Dave Winer and NYU Journalism Professor Jay Rosen, titled Rebooting the News."  🙂

What I would like to hear is how well the Czech initiative will succeed. The first time I visited the country was in 1993, just after Czechoslovakia had split up in two. It was fascinating to talk with (young) journalists then, to hear their genuine concerns about their new democracy, and to note their motivation for building a new, post-communist, civil society.

Any (citizen) journalists out there getting involved in Google's initiative in Prague, do share your views and experiences!