From reverse image search to data visualisation, here is your quick guide to making the most of Google’s free digital tools for your next investigation, from our partners at the Google News Initiative.
The ongoing pandemic has shown there is a huge demand – and a need – for quality journalism. More than ever, people rely on fact based reporting to help them keep up to date with an incredibly fast paced world, and comprehend complex issues and get the right information.
At the same time, the way people access and consume news has changed dramatically in recent years. Journalists everywhere are working hard to provide accurate information and strengthen their digital storytelling, building new ways to reach and connect with their audiences.
The Google News Initiative aims to help journalists develop knowledge and skills in digital journalism across a range of topics, from using large datasets to enhance journalists’ research, to digital verification of facts, videos and images, to compelling visual storytelling.
An important part of this is to share and learn from others across the industry – and that’s why we’re excited to continue our support for the One World Media Awards. With the Digital Media Award, we support a category celebrating creative & innovative use of technology in journalism, all designed to help people gain an understanding of important, underreported stories. We can’t wait to see the applications and all the amazing stories being told with digital techniques and tools.
In this article, we wanted to share a number of free digital tools from Google to help you with your research and save valuable time so you can focus on covering stories that matter.
1. Geo and Mapping
Google Earth can help you to visualise geographical aspects of a story. You can browse through a large 3D library and integrate place marks, lines and highlight areas of interest, or using the Timelapse feature you can view satellite imagery that goes back to 1984 – very useful for visualising changes over time.
For example, during BBC Africa Eye’s Anatomy of a Killing investigation, the team spent hundreds of hours on Google Earth to locate a mountain range that matched the exact profile identified in videos posted on social media. This evidence eventually allowed the team to identify exactly where, when and who was responsible for the horrific killing of captives by a group of Cameroonian soldiers.
Using Google Earth Studio you can also use all these features to create broadcast quality video and animations of locator maps, timelining events, establishing shots and b-roll.
Google Search is often the starting point for journalists when researching a story, but there are a number of tools that can help improve your search efforts, for example Google Advanced Search. Instead of typing paragraph-long search queries that generate less useful results, you can take advantage of search refinements to narrow your searches and find more of what you’re actually looking for.
We recently announced a new research tool called Pinpoint. This helps reporters quickly go through hundreds of thousands of documents by automatically identifying and organising the most frequently mentioned people, organisations and locations.
Google’s Fact Check Explorer allows you to easily browse and search for fact checks. You can for example search for a politician’s statement, or a specific topic and you can also restrict results to a specific publisher.
You’ve probably used Google to search for images that help verify a story but did you know that you can also use Google to search by an image? With reverse image search you can see where or when a certain image has shown up online and what images are related to a particular photo. Another great tool to confirm where a photo or video was captured is Google Street View. By virtually visiting a location you can match up visual clues such as signage, architecture and road markings.
For the investigation, Sudan’s Livestream Massacre, the BBC Africa Eye team used these tools and a number of live-streamed videos to track the exact route of protesters during the massacre on the streets of Khartoum in 2019.
4. Google Trends
When a breaking event happens, people around the world turn to Google to find the details. With Google Trends you can identify real-time, anonymized, indexed Search interest in any given topic or issue.
In the tool, you can look at Trending searches and spot topics suddenly increasing or accelerating on Search. When you search for a topic on the Explore tab, you’ll see a graph showing its popularity over time, a breakdown of interest by region, as well as related topics and queries.
While telling stories with data might sound complicated, useful data visualisations don’t have to be complex.
One tool that makes it easy for people to create immersive visuals which compare topics like for like is Google’s Data GIF Maker. Another helpful tool to build interactive visualisations is Google’s Data studio which enables you to explore real time data from a variety of sources, and gives you freedom in how to present them.
If you want to dive deeper and learn about additional tools and practices, please visit our free training website g.co/newstraining. This site will allow you, at your own pace, to learn about all the elements of digital journalism from finding, to verifying and visualising stories on the web. I also highly recommend you subscribe to our Google News Initiative YouTube channel where we regularly host free, interactive live training in a number of languages.
Last but not least, Google Journalist Studio is a great collection of tools to empower journalists to do their work more efficiently, creatively, and securely.
By Michael Queisser, EMEA Partnerships Manager at the Google News Initiative