Should Google Pay Reparations?

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Neil Henry, professor of journalism at the University of California at Berkley, published an op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle denouncing the evils of search engines like Google and Yahoo.

He said that Google should be funding schools, among other things, to ensure that the quality of journalism doesn’t dwindle, because Google has profited greatly from the work of journalists.

The man reminds me of Grandpa Simpson yelling at the sky.

I understand his concern. Newspapers are on the decline, but damn, it is not technology’s fault. When television first came on the scene in the 1950s, radio looked like it was done for, but it adapted. Radio isn’t gone because new technology arose.

Newspapers will have to do the same in the face of the Internet. Yes, that does mean that journalists will have to suffer for a bit during this transition, but no one gets into journalism for the money, they do it for the love of the job. And all this backwards thinking does is stifle the flame that is the main requirement to be a journalist by telling them that the outlook is grim and it’s only going to get worse.

“It’s like yelling at the sun for getting a sunburn,” said Rick Hirsch, managing editor of multimedia at the Miami Herald.

Rather than focus on how the internet is destroying the news media (you call it destroying, I call it changing), how about we focus on how we can use the Internet to our advantage, to reach as many people with the truth as possible. When did we lose the ideal, and start focusing on the money. If there is anything to keep from the “old” media, as Henry calls it, it is our dedication to the truth.

Professor Henry, Google helped me find your commentary. People use Google to find things including news stories.

“45 percent of our [website’s] traffic comes from search engines,” Hirsch said.

Newspaper websites are generating ad revenue for their companies, albeit not to the degree where they can support the print aspect of the organization. According to The State of the News Media 2007 report, “Ad revenues were flat , despite contributions from online and niche publications that continue to grow at an average rate of 20% to 30% rate.”

Google sends readers to news sites and it helps them find the article they were looking for. How is that a bad thing?

Henry admits that the tools available now are extraordinary and that Google is a good service, but he says that his problem with Google, and websites like it, is that they are “cutting out the heart [of the news business].”

“They are not aggregating what is [ideal],” said Henry.

The professor doesn’t realize that most people, outside of his university, will find out about his book because of sites like Google and Yahoo. Most likely due to his piece (does anyone else find it odd that this column was published the day that the book was released?)

“I didn’t think my comments were that provocative,” said Henry. “I enjoyed the reaction.”

Google doesn’t owe us a cent. It seems to me that some of the older generation journalists are upset that someone else is getting a cut from our disappearing pie.

“…I’m sure the candle makers where wringing their hands when electric lights were introduced,” said Hirsch. -- Elvis Ramirez

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