In Praise of Google News

I like physical newspapers. I like the feel of the paper, I like the way they become crumpled and “well read” when properly enjoyed. I like the different sections, the passing around the breakfast table. I especially like spilling coffee on them, or using them to cover a work area before beginning a messy project, probably involving glue.

But regarding the news, physical newspapers don’t cut it anymore. Each single one operates under a different complex of pressures, norms, and incentives. If you only read one, you’ll have a terribly skewed perspective. And if you read many, you’ll be inundated with paper, and you’ll have trouble acquiring them outside major cities.

Google news is in many ways a vastly superior alternative. Searching through thousands of newspapers around the world by key-word allows one to bypass the local biases, the regional political pressures, everything that spoils good reporting. Of course, there are always biases in anything you read – but being able to get a spectrum of facts from different world papers puts one in a better position to read through them.

I realized how dependant I was on google news (and its sometimes corollary – the facebook news page) when Chomsky started making a big deal on how, in the middle of the Wikileaks coverage on Afghanistan, new evidence that the American military assault on Fallujah has left a toxic legacy “worse than hiroshima” was not being reported in the American media. “Not being reported?”, I thought, that’s ridiculous. I had heard about it a day before his comment had been posted. But then when I looked back to Google News where I had read about it, I realized that all the stories on Fallujah were in papers like “The Belfast Telegraph”, “The Tehran Times”, “”, “The Socialist Worker”, “Arab News”. And that’s when it hit me – it’s trivial to access stories from these papers using Google News – you just search and click, completely simple, and (hopefully) transparent. But if you are reliant on North American dinosaurs like “The Globe” or “The Vancouver Sun”, “The New York Times”, you won’t find out about this.

I’m certainly not claiming that “The Tehran Times” or “The Belfast Telegraph” are better papers than the “Vancouver Sun” or “New York Times”. My point is, in fact, that I think claiming one paper is better than another, so I shall read paper X rather than paper Y, is radically 20th century – and has been surpassed and replaced by google news.


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