Google News Lab for journalists

Google News Lab for journalists

Elvira van Noort

Media stories gain credibility when they include exact numbers and percentages. Also, when visualised, data can add context to complicated stories. RNTC trainer Elvira van Noort is enthusiastic about the Google News Lab and its Public Data Explorer functionality, which helps journalists to underpin their story with data. She trains media professionals how to use this tool.

To collect data, you can visit the individual pages of institutions like the World Bank. “But with Googles’ Public Data Explorer you’ll be much faster”, Elvira says. “It gives you easy access to numerous databases of many well-known institutions at the same time. The information is presented in an accessible way and the system translates the data to visualisations, like charts, which you can use in your news report.”

Exact numbers about telephone-users

Last December, Elvira trained a group of RNTC alumni and colleagues during a Refresher Course in Cambodia. “Most of the participants were familiar with the tool, but few of them actively used it. I show everyone how the data can be visualised and embedded on a webpage, next to a story, to enhance the relevance and credibility of the story. It proved its worth in a story that compared the growth of mobile telephone subscriptions with the slower growth of pre-paid connections. Public Data Explorer provided the course participant with exact numbers of telephone-users who call pre-paid and of those with a contract. The participant successfully used the tool to put the data in a line graph and embed this visual next to his story. ”

Elvira's tip

Elvira has one tip for those who want to start using Google News Lab. “Don’t just start. It’s worth it to first go through the short video tutorials or, if necessary, an extensive online training. Both can be found in the News Lab and are tailor-made for journalists. You need to do this as data can be tricky.  For example, while Google Trends is an impressive tool it is also easy to misinterpret the data.”


(Image: Elvira van Noort / Photo by Michiel Bles)