Michelle Johnson relates how to ‘make Google tools work for you’

SPJ Louisiana is publishing articles written by University of Louisiana at Lafayette chapter members who attended the SPJ Region 12 conference in New Orleans.



Michelle Johnson, multimedia journalism professor at Boston University and SPJ-Google News Lab trainer, offered a tutorial during the Region 12 Conference and JournCamp on the multitude of resources Google offers journalists.

Johnson taught an audience of 25 people about the many benefits of such programs as: Alerts, Images, Trends, Maps and Scholar. Each of these programs presents an easy method of verifying sources and keeping up with current events, she said.

“I’m a big fan of making stuff work for you,” Johnson said about why she likes using these Google programs.

Google Alerts is a convenient way to stay up-to-date with news, current events or celebrity gossip, she explained. The alerts are sent directly to the user’s email inbox for easy access. The search refinement options allow a user to look for a specific thread of news down to the source.

For example: A user can search all news articles about Japanese earthquakes and use refinements to filter out news articles published only by CNN or some other source. The user can also set the frequency he or she receives alerts from “as-it-happens” to “at most once a week.

Google Images, she continued, is a program that allows users to verify the sources of pictures and fact check information. The search bar allows a user to upload a photo or type in its link and the results show every time it was used, where and when. This program also offers refinement settings, such as searching by a specific date or publication.

Google Trends allows users to follow trending information or to see how an issue is trending in the news, Johnson said. It shows top charts, comparisons and trending charts about any topic a user searches. For example, I f one searched “Hillary Rodham Clinton,” the program would pull up a page with various charts that show interest over time, regional interest and related searches. At the top of the page is the option to add another term to compare.

A user also could enter “Bernie Sanders” to compare to “Hillary Rodham Clinton,” she explained, and it would pull up new charts containing both candidates’ information. Google Trends also allows users to use filters restricting what type of source the information comes from, the time frame the information is in and where in the world the information is gathered.

Google Maps is an especially useful in tool in multimedia journalism, Johnson said. Creating maps to go with stories shows readers exactly where events took place, giving them a better idea of what happened, she said. Users can access Google Maps through their Google Drive or by going to maps.google.com. Once in Google Maps, a user would navigate to “My Maps” and hit “Create a Map” to begin designing their own map. After adding all of the points and any text or pictures, one would click the “Share” button to either share the map with friends or make it public.

Finally, Johnson discussed the benefits of Google Scholar. This is a helpful research tool with an extensive bank of academic resources. It also has legal sources, which can be accessed by choosing “case law” when searching a term. The refinements are similar to those in other Google programs, including time frames and relevance. You can also set alerts in Google Scholar, which operate the same as in Google Alerts.


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