Beware of the Google

Does digital chaos theory exist for online journalism? Evidently so, if one considers the story of how United Airlines’ shares lost over 75 percent of their value on Sept. 8. A South Florida Sun-Sentinel article about bankruptcy protection from 2002 mistakenly appeared as fresh news on the newspaper’s Web site. The digital chaos came when Google’s machines identified the Sentinel‘s Web story as current and spread the fiction to worldwide investors.

As an adviser for the student newspaper Web site at Baker University, I have observed how archived stories that receive no views for several weeks can suddenly have over 100 views in a single day. I’ve also seen how an online newspaper’s content management system can occasionally create errors. In many respects, today’s online newspapers are on autopilot, and the autopilot will occasionally take a wrong turn or even crash.

Online publishers all crave the attention of Google algorithms (what a fun phrase to say and spell), because more and more readers are coming to online news sites through a search function. More hits = a higher page ranking. A higher page ranking = more potential ad revenue. More online ad revenue = a glimmer of hope for the newspaper (minus the paper) industry.

Although in the past President Bush has said he uses “the Google” for maps when he’s on “the Internets,” let’s hope he doesn’t trust all of the news he reads via the Google. And let’s hope newspapers can start training flesh-and-bone humans to edit and monitor Web content more accurately and efficiently.

THE VERDICT: PLUG IN to online news, mainly because you may not have a choice in the future. BUT be aware of potential repercussions of digital chaos theory.

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~ by bakerumedia on September 18, 2008.

One Response to “Beware of the Google”

  1. Yes, flesh and blood humans have proved to be very honest and full of morals in the past, I’m sure they won’t put a spin on the news.

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