These days, $5 million dollars isn't that much, especially when you're Google. However, $5 million dollars can also go a very long ways when it's combined with the efforts of non-profits like the James L. Knight Foundation and seeded internationally to fund innovations in journalism. Google itself has played a significant role in changing the face of journalism and, some would say, the death of print media. However, these funds, focused on novel, grassroots approaches and experimentation in journalism in a post-Facebook, post-Twitter world, may very well bring about important new ways of producing and consuming authentic content.
As Google announced yesterday in a blog post,
We’ve granted $2 million to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has a proven track record of supporting programs that drive innovation in journalism. It will use $1 million to support U.S. grant-making in this crucial area. The other $1 million will augment the Knight News Challenge, which is accepting funding proposals from anyone, anywhere in the world, until December 1. Now in its fifth year, the News Challenge has supported projects like DocumentCloud, which aims to bring more investigative-reporting source material online so anyone can find and read it.
The Knight News Challenge is an exciting program in and of itself. You can check out a brief video from one of last year's Knight Challenge winners to get an idea of just how Google is spending its philanthropic funds:
Details on the remaining $3 million to be invested internationally will be forthcoming early in 2011, according to the post. However, it's clear that these funds will help develop journalism as a foundation for democracy. The blog post opened with this statement:
Journalism is fundamental to a functioning democracy. So as media organizations globally continue to broaden their presence online, we’re eager to play our part on the technology side...
Given Google's troubles in China over the last year, it's no wonder the company is sensitive to the way news is collected and disseminated, particularly outside the United States.
While critics of Google's approach to and domination of online news are plentiful, the company reflects a more 21st century view of journalism and the power of the technology to transform how we obtain information (though, clearly, they would prefer that you obtain it via Google):
As Thomas Edison once said, “When there’s no experimenting, there’s no progress. Stop experimenting and you go backward.” We look forward to working with the journalism community to help digital news move forward.