GOOGLE: A New Fund To Support Investigative Reporting

dWeb.News Article from Daniel Webster dWeb.News

Investigative journalism has changed drastically over the past decade. The role of technology is changing and growing in every aspect of investigative journalism, from the gathering of documents to the processing of data. New tools enable real-time collaboration between newsrooms across continents. Although a few news agencies have the resources and staff to make use of the technological advances, many local news organizations and freelancers are not able to do so.

Before our roles at Northwestern or Google, we used to work together at The Washington Post. We were able to equip reporters with the most modern technology to help us create document-centric news stories. This combination of reporters and tools was a powerful combination that resulted in not only the awards but also the enormous impact it had on society and lawmakers. Our colleagues on The Post’s investigative team relied on technology to process and understand the large document sets that powered their award-winning work on projects like the Opioid Files and the Afghanistan Papers. These projects inspired policy makers to make important changes in society.

Although we met in a national newsroom we both have roots in local journalism. We both know the importance of accountability reporting to local communities. Even smaller newsrooms that are not covering marginalized groups need more resources to provide critical accountability coverage.

Supporting journalists all over the world and creating tools to help them do their work more efficiently, regardless of their organization’s size, is an essential part of the Google News Initiative. Last year, the GNI launched Journalist Studio, a suite of Google tools to help journalists. This includes Pinpoint, which uses the best of Google’s search, artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to help reporters quickly search through large amounts of documents.

Today we announce The Data Driven Reporting Project ,, a partnership between GNI and the Medill Schools of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, Northwestern University. Medill is the leader of The Data-Driven Reporting Project. This project aims to reduce inequalities of resources for local newsrooms as well as freelancers, when it comes to essential data-driven investigative reporting. The project will award $2 million to journalists who are involved in document-based investigative projects serving underrepresented communities across the United States and Canada.

The program’s goal is to assist qualified applicants in publishing meaningful stories that make use modern tools and resources. Medill will offer specialized training, expertise, and resources for award recipients. This program aims to foster a sense of community among journalists who do this type of work. The projects that are awarded will, when possible, contribute to an increasing collection of publicly available data for journalists to use and explore. Medill will form a jury consisting of journalists, academics and technologists who will vet applicants and select projects to finance. Google will not be involved in the selection of projects or the jury.

The Data Driven Reporting Project is a reflection of Journalist Studio’s emphasis on providing reporters with tools and training. Pinpoint can read audio files and recognize handwriting. The tool has proved useful to several journalists at, for example, The Boston Globe, which analyzed hundreds of documents in their Pulitzer-Prize-winning series Blindspot; Mexico-based Quinto Elemento‘s investigation into corporate corruption; and the Philippines-based Rappler’s examination of CIA reports from the 1970s.

An illustration of how Pinpoint can find words across documents.

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