Google News Lab brings new meaning to the phrase “Just Google It.” The large tech organization is collaborating with journalists and multimedia storytellers to find innovative ways to make storytelling tools accessible for anyone. Tools covered during this session included Advanced Search, Image Search, Google Maps, My Maps, Google Street View, Google Translate and YouTube 360.
Samaruddin Stewart, a SPJ Trainer for the Google News Lab partnership, led a Wednesday night workshop with members from SPJ, RTDNA, NAJA and NAHJ . Stewart works with SPJ to train journalists on the Google News Lab Research Tools.
“I think what is nice about the tools that we present is that they’re free,” Stewart said. “They’re fairly easy to use. I think that with immersive storytelling, no matter where you’re coming from, whether it be a newsroom or whether it be a university, the idea to give people more context to a situation I think works across the board.”
During the session, which Stewart referred to as “The Fundamental Track,” attendees had the chance to learn new techniques for traditional storytelling interspersed with methods of immersive storytelling. Some tools, such as Google Search, might be something newsrooms already use when verifying information. Other tools, such as Google Cardboard and 360 video, might be a new medium for journalists to explore.
“I don’t think I’ve been to a training where people have known every single tool we presented,” Stewart said. “I think there’s this great epiphany moment, for some people it’s one tool, for others it’s a different tool. But there is always something that people pull a value from this and I think that makes it all worth it.”
After using the Google Cardboard, Zara McDowell, a University of Missouri student and an RTDNA member, said she wants to integrate Google Maps’ 360 photo feature for future stories.
“I’m really hoping to use the 360 (photos),” McDowell said. “I don’t know how I would implement it yet. Probably at a really, really big event. Maybe like a festival or maybe like a state fair or something like that. Not a lot of newsrooms are using these tools right now, so if we start using them it is going to make us stand out and more people are going to watch us because we have a unique and different way of covering things.”
The Google Cardboard virtual reality headset gave attendees the chance to directly experience how Googles Maps and YouTube can be used as a tool for providing immersive contexts for stories.
“I think you probably recognized that when you put on that headset, that Google Cardboard and looked around, it gave you a better understanding of that location than any other still photo you’ve seen or any other potential video you’ve seen,” Stewart said. “You almost felt like that embodiment of being there. I think that’s something very special that journalists can figure out how to harness.”
Another tool that can be used to foster a sense of connection with readers and viewers was Google Translate. Attendees at the session were asked to download the Google Translate app. The app could be used to translate typed text, handwriting, a two-way conversation and text on an image. Stephanie Sandoval, a University of Missouri student and an RTDNA member, plans on using the map in her college town of Columbia, Missouri.
“I think (Google Translate) for me was the most helpful because where we come from we have a lot of diversity – Syrian refugees coming over – sometimes we don’t speak their language and this tool is kind of a way to get their voice because sometimes those people are less likely to get their voice heard,” Sandoval said. “So with this app, I think it is a great way for journalists to not only just reach the people that speak English but also the people that don’t speak the language.”
This session briefly covered the Google tools journalists can use to enhance their storytelling skills. For those who could not attend the session or are interested in seeking more information, Google News Lab provides free journalism lessons on g.co/newslab.
“We spent 90 minutes or so today, and people left with new tools to help tell stories,” Stewart said. “I think as long as journalists are evolving and the way that we are telling stories are evolving, it’s what the audience expects and it’s the way that we are going to keep up engagement.”