Google News (still in beta–that ought to be a website. I see that somebody owns www.stillinbeta.com), as you no doubt know, aggregates 4500 online news sources. It’s a god-send to the PR and marketing industry–it’s a crucial means of tracking of who’s mentioned where. Here are two peculiar stories about the site:
The 4500 news sources are picked manually, and apparently include National Vanguard (hey, first use of nofollow!), a white supremicist site. While I think these people have the right to publish whatever they want, I’m not sure they belong in Google’s news site. When you get down to it, though, the issue’s pretty complex.
What is Google’s criteria for inclusion? What should it be? I note, for example, this story about white student protesters being attacked throughout France. I can’t find another English-language news source in Google that corroborates it. Does this mean the story is all lies, was it under-reported in the English-language media or am I just lousy at searching? In either of the first two cases, are we better off with or without this biased news source? I see that Google News includes a pretty dubious-looking source (though less extreme, admittedly) from the left-wing camp.
Clearly, as the number of news sources increases, a hand-picked set of sources in Google News becomes less effective.
It’s these fraught philosophical questions that Google should shun. They should solve the problem technologically, by offering a Feedster-like news search, including every RSS feed on the planet. Users should be able to rank sources by authority, so that the New York Times will trump dodgy websites. Until such time, of course, that dodgy websites become legitimate, trusted news sources and their authority grows accordingly.