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Google's Experimental Newsroom Avoids Negative Headlines 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the giant-earthquake-provides-thousands-with-early-access-to-afterlife dept.
theodp writes: After Brazil's dramatic World Cup defeat by Germany, writes NPR's Aarti Shahani, Google's experimental newsroom focused on search trends that didn't rub salt in Brazil's wounds, choosing to not publish a single trend on Brazilian search terms. Copywriter Tessa Hewson said they were just too negative. "We might try and wait until we can do a slightly more upbeat trend." It's a decision that puzzles Shahani, but producer Sam Clohesy explained, "a negative story about Brazil won't necessarily get a lot of traction in social." In old-school newsrooms, if it bleeds, it leads. But because this new newsroom is focused on getting content onto everyone's smartphone, marketing expert Rakesh Agrawal says, editors may have another bias: to comb through the big data in search of happy thoughts.
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Google's Experimental Newsroom Avoids Negative Headlines

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  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Friday July 11, 2014 @09:36AM (#47430671)

    we say bad stuff only when it makes us look good.

    • by i kan reed (749298) on Friday July 11, 2014 @09:53AM (#47430789) Homepage Journal

      Worse than that. It's like Brave New World news. The only things fit to publish are the things that keep us happy(and thus amendable to advertisements in this case). It's not trying to make on specific entity look good, it's trying to engage in actual mind control via selection bias.

      • So... Yeah, this is basically exactly the same issue as the FB "experiment" snafu a while back.

        We might try and wait until we can do a slightly more upbeat trend.

        I thought a tend is supposed to be some overall direction in what is actually happening in the real world. Not what we would like to be happening.

      • Hardly new. Slashdot frequently runs doom-is-nigh, overblown, click-baity summaries for the purposes of drawing in viewers (and thus, revenue). All those stupid social sites use vague headlines ending with "...you won't believe what happens next!" to try and intrigue viewers for the same reason. Calling it "mind control" is setting the bar pretty low.

      • I'm also surprised everyone still hates Germany this much and considers that match a defeat rather than a victory.

        Too soon?

      • All advertising supported news runs the risk of turning into "content;" that is, of existing primarily as a circus attraction to get an audience into the advertisers' tent.

        In the distant past, professional integrity enabled journalists to get actual news into newspapers. Perhaps that was because the people who chose to devote their lives to journalism, even the editors and publishers, were interested in contributing to society by acting as its eyes, its ears and, on occasion, its conscience. That's always

      • by ahaweb (762825)
        In reality, it's the advertisements that serve the role of promising to make us happy.
        • a cite [tandfonline.com]

          Now, while happiness does help us catch lies in advertising, we're also more likely to react positively to advertising in general when we're happy. Thus google's mission should be to make people happy at the expense of news quality, since they're in the advertising business.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        Worse than that. It's like Brave New World news. The only things fit to publish are the things that keep us happy(and thus amendable to advertisements in this case). It's not trying to make on specific entity look good, it's trying to engage in actual mind control via selection bias.

        Ironically, this might actually end up giving a more accurate picture of the world, because disasters and scandals tend to be big and flashy, while good news come as constant stream of small things. Overall, the stream drowns o

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Friday July 11, 2014 @10:17AM (#47430979)

      Here is the problem:
      Bad news is more interesting than good news. When people hear bad news it is a call to action that something needs to be done to stop it. Good news means you should just continue on and do what you have been doing.

      Now we get flooded with Bad News and that makes news junkies become paranoid and thinking the world is about to end, and this over extradition of the problem will cause them to try to do drastic action to try to fix it. Tea Party, Occupy Movement, Radical groups.

      Countries like China and North Korea, tries to give a bunch of good news, as a way to pacify the public. There is no interest in roping people in to watch the news every hour. So they do good news, to try to keep people passive and do what they already do. Ignoring real issues that are going on, causing the culture to stagnate.

      We really need a happy middle. Where we know what important is going on, without it seeming like the End of the World.

      • by dcw3 (649211) on Friday July 11, 2014 @10:24AM (#47431035) Journal

        How about instead of trying to spin it one way or the other, try publishing the facts. No real news entity should be spinning stories, but they obviously do in order to pull in a larger audience, or deliver their agenda (Fox, MSN).

        I'm really tired of these crappy stories that I see on local news meant to scare folks, or pull at their heartstrings. They really misguide peoples perceptions of reality.

        • by Agares (1890982)
          News stations use to be required by law to state just the facts and give both sides of the story if I remember right.
          • News stations use to be required by law to state just the facts and give both sides of the story if I remember right.

            Uh-huh. And now (well, for some time already) we have courts agreeing with Fox et al that there is no rule against distorting or falsifying the news in the United States.
            link [dailykos.com]

          • by jmyers (208878)

            Who decides what are facts? Who decides what the 2 sides are? The government? If there ever was such a law it must have been enforced really badly at least during my lifetime (I am 54). I have always seen huge bias in news from any source. The difference that's happened over the last 20 years or so is that commentators have started to state their bias up front. I believe that is way more honest because you know what you are getting and can weight the information accordingly. The fact is that anything that c

            • by Agares (1890982)
              I never said that it actually did any good. Your points are ones that anyone should realize.
        • How about instead of trying to spin it one way or the other, try publishing the facts.

          There are an overwhelming number of facts generated every day, and no way to know what is the most important (indeed, what is important to one person is unimportant to another). A news organization thus has to choose which facts to publish, and that is where the bias comes in (inevitably!): the news corporation chooses which facts to show, over other ones. They might choose to show facts that make you want to go to war, hide the facts that show why it's a bad idea, and all they are doing is publishing the f

        • How about instead of trying to spin it one way or the other, try publishing the facts.

          As another poster already said, there are billions of "facts" generated every day. A news organization has to choose to emphasize some or others -- there's certainly enough stuff going on in the world to generate an entirely "positive" newspaper every day or an entirely "negative" one.

          No real news entity should be spinning stories, but they obviously do in order to pull in a larger audience, or deliver their agenda (Fox, MSN).

          That is the ENTIRE point of most news organizations. Contrary to popular belief, there never was some sort of "golden age" where news sources ever just "reported the news." Newspapers and magazines have always mostly been t

        • by ultranova (717540)

          How about instead of trying to spin it one way or the other, try publishing the facts.

          The facts of what? "Intoxicated man takes a taxi, family of four gets home safe and sound"?

      • by StikyPad (445176)

        In that case:

        Bad News! Google to stop showing bad news!

        In a terrible decision that requires a call-to-arms, Google has decided to censor anything bad. Stop everything you are doing and take to the streets while coordinating through social media, and let your voices and/or rioting be heard! Only when Google mentions the protests in their news feed will can claim success!

  • by Gr33nJ3ll0 (1367543) on Friday July 11, 2014 @09:38AM (#47430679)
    Without the usual diet of bad stuff happening what will they use to feed their various fears and neuroses?
  • by Cardoor (3488091) on Friday July 11, 2014 @09:42AM (#47430709)
    .. israel has asked 30,000 of it's citizens to prepare for a community outreach program in the gaza strip, where they intend to engage locals in what's expected to be highly impactful face to face cultural exchanges
    .. is the arctic the next greatest beach resort haven? it just might be!
    ... and finally, we re-introduce Blinky-san - the superfish everyone has known and loved.. leading the way in sushi dinners that leave you glowing with excitement!
  • by l0ungeb0y (442022) on Friday July 11, 2014 @09:46AM (#47430735) Homepage Journal
    Thank you Google for protecting me from reality no one should have to know about bad things that happen, in fact, why should we know anything at all except for Google approved happy thoughts. Every year Google seems to do something that makes me hate them more and more. So fuck you Google - you're a bunch of authoritarian asshats who think you should control the information we have access to while trying to turn everyone into your personal little database to mine and sell info from. Just go fuck yourselves.
  • Hmmm ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Friday July 11, 2014 @09:47AM (#47430747) Homepage

    I don't want upbeat headlines. I want the news.

    That will include good and bad headlines.

    This sounds like a stupid idea, only tell people the upbeat things and let them live in blissful ignorance of what's actually happening in the world. The world doesn't work like that.

    What next, not telling us when governments misbehave, or when some atrocity happens so we don't all get sad?

    • Okay, hold on, I'll get you a link to Pornhub where you can see Brazil getting fucked by Germany.

    • Re:Hmmm ... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Megol (3135005) on Friday July 11, 2014 @11:16AM (#47431443)

      So you want the news? Then this may be a more correct delivery than other news media.

      Traditional media tend to skip happy news (or do some short notices) while promoting violence, crimes etc. as the top news.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        I don't want them to pick only the negative stuff. I don't want them to bias towards the happy stuff.

        I want to know what is actually happening, not what some editor thinks I want to know is happening, or stories which will increase ad revenue.

        I will evaluate good and bad on my own.

  • by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Friday July 11, 2014 @09:47AM (#47430751) Homepage

    I included the word "doom" in a post and it did not go to the newsfeed. Changed the word and then it goes. Nazis would be thrilled to see this.

    • by joshuao3 (776721)
      I was thinking the same thing... this is what Facebook did as a social experiment in a way. Personally, I'm supportive of Facebook's experiment as it added to the scientific body of work about social manipulation. In my opinion there's no expectation of equal "news" coverage on a social site, website, blog, TV station, or anywhere. As long as there are other options available, I say that "news" services can run their service without editorial oversight by the Government.
    • by GuB-42 (2483988)

      I included the word "doom" in a post and it did not go to the newsfeed. Changed the word and then it goes. Nazis would be thrilled to see this.

      If you are so keen on raging, try to talk about quakes.

  • I seem to recall reading about a similar trend back in the 40's. Took quite a few "wins" over various countries until the aggressors were called on it. Wasn't quite sports related, mind you.

  • These are the experts. They have their journalism degrees. They are news professionals. They know what we should be reading.

    We don't understand this because we are too stupid. We are hicks. We don't have the same respect they do for polishing and smoke being blown in our faces. We don't understand how the 4th estate should be running the world.
  • God bless Google for protecting fans of Brazil's soccer team. I suppose if the humiliating defeat wasn't enough to send them over the edge, the endless parade of articles pointing out the humungous ASS KICKING they received, would. FYI there was rioting after the match but I guess Google figured it could have escalated to a global catastrophe...
    • I suspect that you are very close to the truth. Football here has always been a way to keep the masses under control, making them worry about football and forget the problems of the country. And if you take away the will of the people to watch football with such humiliation, what would happen? The controllers of the world are probably worried.
  • need a real journalist to lead their marketing efforts.
    For one, you don't edit the news. You relay the facts as is.
    If you want to have your audience read about your opinions, you clearly mark that an "Editorial" and then go crazy on your side of things.
    Future newsreaders don't need a platform that's gonna censor the news they receive. Google would take a big PR hit from this. think it through.
    Sergey Brin said his vision was to "make information come to the people" That's kinda what you're trying to
    • by ultranova (717540)

      For one, you don't edit the news. You relay the facts as is.

      They did. The relayed fact was both correct and relevant. All this noise is about choosing one fact over the other when both could not be picked.

  • Why can’t we tell them what they want to hear?

    Anchorman 3: The Legend Goes Webscale

  • Frankly, I have to say that this is even more Orwellian and pernicious than government-backed spying.

    The idea that an ostensibly-objective source in the private sector - simply by the good fortune of it's overwhelming market power - can ensure that we all have happythink by subtly 'managing' the news feeds... is terrifying.

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      Meet the new media control overlords. It used to be we had filters like News Editors, TV Anchors etc. who had a set of principles and presented the news based on those principles. Of course individuals like William Randolph Hurst realized how powerful this was and fashioned and tailored the news to their own agendas. This gave their already immense power even more capabilities to shape the dialog and issues of the day. Google, Huffington Post et al. are all in the same business and both actually don't g

  • by Scottingham (2036128) on Friday July 11, 2014 @10:20AM (#47431005)
    A few months ago I was trying to look up the latest figures on the Ebola outbreak. All I could find through most news cites were BS articles that wasted 3/4 of their space on the background of what Ebola is and where Sierra Leone is. In my searching I stumbled across a Daily Map Archive from the EU commission.

    Each day they bring a new map with news from around the world. Succinct news, showing where it is geographically, with actual figures and no other bullshit. Granted, it's nearly all bad news...but I've learned so much about events around the world that the major news outlets don't cover (too much time covering important things like Brazil Exploitation Theatre or the latest breaking news out of Hollywood).

    Thine linken: http://ercportal.jrc.ec.europa... [europa.eu]

    Coincidentally, their map today is of that very same Ebola outbreak. Things are not looking good.
  • "Hey, let's blatantly spin the news by using out-and-out censorship!". Fuck you Google, what the hell do you think you're doing? The news is the news, good, bad, or indifferent. It is the duty of a news agency to report the news, not filter it. What you're doing is no different than some government propaganda engine.
  • The filter bubble is bringing 1984 to realization in ways that no one ever imagined.

  • They seem to be talking about Google Trends [google.com], where they are currently making cutesy graphs of what people are searching for about the World Cup.

    Calling this a "newsroom" seems to be a bit of a stretch. This is NOT "Google News" where I see "humiliation", "shame" and "misery" in the top stories when searching for "Brazil World Cup" [google.com].

    This had me really confused (and it seems like many of the readers here as well), but the article and summary are misleading.

  • So it might make me happy to know some bad news, like my Bank just got hacked.This is nothing but trying to put a happy face on censorship. I hate "search trends" reports and articles. I wish they would factually publish that actual trends with no filtering. that would be truly interesting. I am sure this has never been done. If the trends have been real in the past then it really proves how stupid most people are. It normally appears to be as pop fluff and the same stuff the MSM is pushing as issues of the

  • News is news. Selectively publishing only certain stories is always an editorial chore, but using viewers/readers "feelings" crosses the line into something more akin to entertainment. Welcome to the club, Google. You're just like Fox News now.
    • by mi (197448)

      You're just like Fox News now.

      Sure. Because the honest and straight-shooting New York Times and MSNBC would publish — indeed, revel in — every piece of bad news...

      As long a Republican can be blamed for it — justly or otherwise — of course...

      Iraq, for example, was a "quagmire" in 2003 [nytimes.com] — when the enemy was defeated and on the run. And so it was in 2006 [nytimes.com], when only minor insurrections remained. But it is not a quagmire today — with the enemy having recaptured vast swaths of

  • Google's prime directive is to make money.

    There's the answer to today's question.

    Those who don't understand and embrace that first sentence may well start babbling about free speech, 4th estate, bias, or any number of equally irrelevant issues having nothing to do with Google's business model.

    Google does not owe anyone the "news," any more than does the news entertainment venues like Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and the likes.

    If you're interested in news in the traditional sense, good luck and please remember wher

  • For centuries researchers have lamented the difficulty in studying society and accurately running social experiments. Now for the first time in human history companies such as Google and Facebook have a real window into how ideas and emotion spread. They can see the relationships between philosophy, religion, gender and culture in how they define our dealings with each other.

    I disagree with what they're doing and how they're doing it. Yet I pause and think to myself... In the same position, could I resist t

  • What is this, life -- or 2nd grade?

    It seems outright condescending to try to make it all happy news. People die. Things break. Teams lose. Wars happen. DEAL WITH IT! Don't hide it!

    • Life is 2nd grade. Or perhaps "Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten"?

      Adults are merely conditioned and learn to ACT "mature," under the masks and habits we are all children... Psychology focuses so much on childhood for good reason.

      Humans will avoid negative stimulation; it's natural behavior. If you have too much freedom and always have positive options you will avoid negative things ALL THE TIME. This will result in a lack of contrast which is necessary for your mind to function since jus

  • Now, thanks to Google, bad news is no news! But, as no news is good news, we could conclude that bad news is good news. Is this good, bad or newsworthy?

"A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." -- William James

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