Google Today launched Journalist Studio, a range of online tools for journalists.
Most of the products in Journalist Studio, such as Google Trends and the Fact Check Explorer, were already available elsewhere. Google has not only put everything together in a new product suite, but has also announced two new tools: Pinpoint and The Common Knowledge Project.
Megan H. Chan, Google’s head of news ecosystems, demonstrated Pinpoint for me yesterday. Chan was previously an editor and digital executive on publications like Politico and The Washington Post, and recalled moments when reporters were given access to a vast amount of public records ̵
Pinpoint was designed to make the process easier by identifying the most frequently mentioned people, organizations and locations and making it easy to jump to each of these references. Chan noted that this should be less boring than simply pressing CTRL-F over and over again for different terms. And because it uses Google’s Knowledge Graph technology, Pinpoint can also find group-related terms or distinguish between two similar-looking terms, e.g. B. “John F. Kennedy” and “John F. Kennedy, Jr.”
Chan added that these tools “are not a substitute for a human journalist,” but they can make these journalists more effective. And she suggested that this could be useful during the fact-checking process so that journalists can substantiate their claims with editors more quickly and reliably, rather than simply relying on their notes.
Because of Google’s voice and text capabilities, Pinpoint can also be used to browse audio.
Although the product is only being published publicly today, some journalists have already used it in their coverage, for example to give USA Today the opportunity to aggregate data on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes in the US.
When asked if users should feel comfortable uploading sensitive documents to the service, Chan said, “We believe Google has world-class privacy and security practices and Pinpoint is absolutely no exception.”
She acknowledged that journalists sometimes have access to documents that are “extremely sensitive” and don’t even upload them to their own internal networks. However, she argued that for the most part, Google’s security practices should be sufficient.
As part of Pinpoint, Google also works with the Center for Public Integrity, Document Cloud, Stanford University’s Big Local News program, and The Washington Post to create collaborative document collections.
The Common Knowledge Project allows journalists to examine a variety of public records (from Data Commons, which collects records from organizations like the US Census and the CDC) and then create their own interactive visualizations that can then be embedded into their stories .
Simon Rogers, the data editor at the Google News Initiative’s News Lab, told me that one of the goals of the project is to promote “data literacy” by creating default settings for how the numbers can be visualized in an informative (rather than misleading) way : “We will try not to show things the way they shouldn’t be shown.”
All of the tools in Google’s Journalist Studio are either available for free or journalists can sign up for a free account.