An interactive session on Google Advanced Search, Images and Trends

Photo: Tobia Faverio

With digital media taking centre stage, ‘verification’ and ‘trend-based stories’ are two key elements that are being discussed and debated upon in newsrooms globally. While the traditional news practitioners focus on verifying every aspect of information including photographs, text and other elements, new media experts are also trying to strike a balance between traffic generating trending content and authentic news content that floods social media platforms on a regular basis.

At the workshop Google Advanced Search, Images and TrendsElisabetta Tola, journalist and science communicator currently working for Google News Labs as Media Training Specialist for Italy, introduced an interesting array of tips, tricks and tools from Google that can enrich the news writing and curation experience. These included verification of photographs sourced from social media, verification of an experts’ credentials by using Google Scholar, narrowing down search results for quicker and more relevant results.

Google News Labs

Google News Labs, Tola said, “is a relatively recent division at Google that aims to support digital content and journalists. It comprises of a team of people providing support to colleagues and journalists to use Google-based tools.” It is a website available in different languages providing access to reporting tools, geo-tools and a number of tutorials on how to use maps and other important tools for journalists. News Labs has tied up with First Draft, YouTube NewsWire and Witness Media Labs to provide tutorials on information verification and dissemination. “Having a look at all these tools and accessing verified information helps you feel safer when working online,” Tola added while explaining the importance of information verification in the digital era.

Google Trends

As the name suggests, Google Trends refer to tags, news items or key words that the audience is searching for at any specific moment. These could also be news stories or trending topics, which are on top of Google’s ranking based on back-end algorithm. In newsrooms, these trends are used to look for stories missed by editors or those stories gaining maximum traction online. Google provides region-wise and country-wise breakdown of these trending topics, which enables newsrooms to figure out pertinent stories for their target audience. By using the ‘Explore Trends’ option, a journalist can enter up to five key terms related to the story and look for worldwide trends or even narrow down and filter searches.

Going incognito

Google profiles and related search results can hamper organic suggestions and results. To avoid this and to find information that’s relevant to you, Tola suggested usingof the incognito mode. In this way you do not navigate with your real name or identity. How to switch to incognito mode? Go to Control + Shift + N or just open a new tab and go to incognito mode.

Google scholar

An essential for those in search of scholarly literature is Google Scholar. Tola, who has been working as a data journalist, said “Google Scholar provides high-quality research and certified literature.” It also allows a journalist to “verify the credibility or pedigree of an expert”, based on the number of their published research papers and articles. Therefore, it is useful, for journalists, to check academics’ work under Google Scholar. In the platform, articles or research papers can also be saved in libraries.

Working with data

Working with data requires understanding the techniques of scraping information. Tola suggests journalists use Google Drive Sheets and build databases that can easily be saved, shared and retrieved. Journalists can also work in groups and share these joint data sets with colleagues. Under ‘Explore’ section in Google Drive Sheets, you can open charts, plot the data contained in work-sheets and also embed these charts in articles. These worksheets can be made public / used as graphics for stories. Apple users can use iFrame by copying the embed code and pasting it on the website backend.

Photo: Tobia FaverioImage verification

To identify doctored images or videos, a Google search can provide quick results. In case of any image trending on social media, a journalist can just copy and paste the image link and find its prior usage and relevancy. This can bust controversial information doing rounds on social media. Journalists should also be able to find royalty-free images and look for copyright details before using any image.

Advanced search options

Ever since evolution of devices, especially with the advent of smartphones, we have been using Google searches differently to filter and narrow down our searches, Tola said while explaining the Advanced Search options. The usage of Google search refinements can provide specific data that is looked for.

Finding right information with Google Advanced search

When you google a specific query, you can narrow down searches sorting it by Date, but also by Images, Videos, News, etc. This helps you filter down information to the lowest possible and exact search results. For example, when you google Carnival 2016, you receive more than a million hits. But if you narrow down your search, selecting source, site or date. You can also search by file type: if you use PDF in your search operations, all .html files will automatically be excluded and vice Versa.

Examples on how to narrow down your google search results:

Search 1: Carnival 2016

Search 2: Carnival 2016

Search 3: Carnival 2016 .org

Search 4: Carnival 2016 .com

Search 5: Carnival 2016 .com PDF (Also called as combination of multiple operations)

Search 6: Carnival 2016 .html

Search 7: Xls. Carnival 2016 (Also called as combination of multiple operations)

The tool of Google Search Operator also allows you to find websites similar to the site you specify in the search query.

Fusion tables

Fusion Tables is an experimental data visualization web application to gather, visualise, and share data tables. Google’s Fusion Tables can handle high amount of data and also view maps and charts. “It is a very powerful tool to create charts,” Tola said while explaining the functionalities of the tool.

Google Public data

Google Public Data  provides public data and forecasts from a number of international organisations and academic institutions such as the World Bank, IMF. These data sets belong to individual institutes, so journalists have to check the usage rights of Google public data from the concerned institutes and get copyright clearances. 

For any queries you can reach Google News Labs by emailing