How to Save the News…

Why thank you, James Fallows at the Atlantic, for swooping in and reassuring us all. But in all seriousness, in my opinion, the Atlantic is going to be a huge part of whatever media makes it through to the other side… they hire brilliant people and they have a great website…

Check out this article,  the whole thing is great, but I particularly like this part:

It was Krishna Bharat who identified a more profound form of inefficiency. As a student at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, Bharat had written for the campus newspaper while taking his computer-science degree. “In a second life, I would be a journalist,” he once told an Indian newspaper. (When the Indian newspaper asks me, I will say: In a second life, I would be a successful Google executive.) He got his Ph.D. at Georgia Tech and was an early Google hire, in 1999. After the 9/11 attacks two years later, he grew worried about the narrowness of news he was receiving through the U.S. media. “I felt that we really had to catch up with the world’s news,” he told me. “To get a broad understanding, you had to visit sites in Europe and Asia and the Middle East. I was wondering if Google could do something to make the world’s news information available.”

This last statement is the kind of thing many people at the company say in utter earnestness. In Bharat’s case, it meant devising a system that would collect news feeds from around the world, automatically and instantly cluster them by subject and theme, and move them up and down in prominence based on how many sources in various parts of the world were discussing the same topic. A few weeks later, such an automatic news-monitoring site was up and running as an internal demo at Google. In September 2002, it went public as Google News, initially covering 4,000 English-language news sources a day. Now it covers as many as 25,000 sources in some 25 languages, all by purely automated assessments of the main trends emerging in news coverage around the world.

Except for an 18-month period when Bharat founded and ran Google’s R&D center in Bangalore, his original hometown, he has been guiding Google News ever since. In this role, he sees more of the world’s news coverage daily than practically anyone else on Earth. I asked him what he had learned about the news business.

He hesitated for a minute, as if wanting to be very careful about making a potentially offensive point. Then he said that what astonished him was the predictable and pack-like response of most of the world’s news outlets to most stories. Or, more positively, how much opportunity he saw for anyone who was willing to try a different approach.


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