4 potential uses for Google Wave in news

Lots of journalism’s resident tech geeks and big thinkers have been talking up the potential of Google Wave to “transform journalism”. I’m not going to go so far as to say that, but it does have a lot of features that make it an ideal candidate for fixing problems a lot of newsrooms face thanks to limitations in current technology.

Here are four general ways newsrooms may chose to implement Google Wave. Assuredly, they have countless wavelets.

1. It’s a newsroom budgeting solution

The problem: Anyone who’s had to share a newsroom budget in Word/Google Docs/Excel/etc. knows the struggle of shared document updating and access. Wave takes Google Docs to the next level – and makes it a lot easier for several parties to edit the same document in real time. No more “This document is currently in use, you will enter read-only mode”.

In Google Wave, you can edit the type submitted by anyone else. You can add comments to any part of the type and spin off conversations/collaborations from the budget to, say, talk about a specific long-term project. You can copy and past whole sections of a wave (the entire “document”) or a wavelet (a spun-off conversation within the document) to new waves, making it easier to carry a daily budget to the next day.

If a newsroom had daily, weekly, monthly and longer term budgets in Google Wave, we might not even need to have several meetings a day just so know where we are on today’s budget.

Here’s a potential walk-through:

Editors all add their reporters’ budget lines into a semi-private daily budget wave. The Managing Editor has questions about a particular budget line that she adds as a wavelet to that potion of the text. A back-and-forth with the reporter and their editor ensues there.

Photo Editor goes though the daily budget and adds notation as to which stories have art by creating news blips (individual comments) or starting new wavelets (conversations) within the daily budget as to why certain assignments weren’t shot, when art should get in, etc. She can also add the actual photos or videos into the budget for a page designer/web producer to grab later.

In other words, it’s your daily budget meetings, digitized. What a time saver!

2. It’s a reporting collaboration tool

The problem: Working on a project with another reporter or editor is never ideal. There’s always a mess of emails, attached Word files for notes and meetings, meetings, meetings. In the end, it’s difficult for the research and writing of two reporters to fully integrate  in a way that doesn’t look like two people were thrown together on a story.

Because of it’s real-time nature and media sharing capabilities, Wave is an ideal place for a newsroom project team to work. The reporters could not only share all of their notes, recorded conversations and research in this shared space, they could also co-write the story (or sections of the story) in a Wiki-ized wave.

The reporters can offer one another notes on each and every section of the article as they piece it together, rewrite or edit sections according to new info and insert new pieces in the middle of the old ones to help the story take shape. As one gets a quote that would fit well int the story, they can insert it as a wavelet, with the audio of the interview included if they’d want.

Reporters could, like this enterprising chap, conduct interviews with sources via Wave, either as a chat or video conference. that way, they could each ask questions (even if they aren’t in the same place) and involve many sources in the same conversation if needed.

All the while, an editor can see the progress every step of the way and make comments and edits on every portion of the story, even if a reporter is currently editing. Collaborators from video, graphics and photo can also chime in at various points, showing the latest photo of the source quoted (for instance) or asking questions relating to their part of the project.

And all along the way, the staff may chose to open up the research or even the article in progress to the public to get feedback, gather more information or just be transparent (this has potential most of all in public service journalism and investigations). Say you want to open your notes and data up to the story sources via a wave – they can rebut one another and add more info of their own that can be used in the final story.


3. It’s a community conversation tool

The problem: You want to get conversation going about a particular topic, but your existing commenting and message board tools limit the ability to communicate with useful commenters, while allowing the conversation to be taken off-track from the original topic.

The branching nature of Google Wave makes it great for getting lots of feedback and opinions. After initially putting the topical wave out there, the creator can take the conversation in many directions. He/she can communicate with all of the waves participants or speak individually wit users within the wave (say, to get more information).

If a participant wants to go off-topi (and they will), they can create a new wavelet in the overall wave and run with it.And the best part? Google Wave is attached to your email address and, thus, your Google identity. It’s a lot closer to transparent commenting than most systems have now.

The Austin American-Statesman has been experimenting with a daily news wave, with varying degrees of success. While Social Media Editor Robert Quigley has a lot of great ideas for how to use wave, he’s still limited by the fact that even in Austin, not everyone has an invite – and if they do, not many know how to use the technology yet.

4. It’s a public Wiki or crowdsourced story

The problem: You want to involve the public in an upcoming project, but the “tell us” box with your email address in the paper or on your blog just isn’t getting much response. If it gets any, it’s in separate email conversations with several people that can’t communicate effectively with one another.

As a spin-off of the to preview ideas – why not let the public do the heavy lifting? Sure, you might not want them to write your health care coverage, but why not give them a shot at editing and writing community resources, opinion articles and reports from news events.

Say you want to publish a guide to every neighborhood in your coverage area. Post up what you have in a wave and invite the public to edit and add facts, places, photos and more. They live there – so why not let them contribute?

Or, put your paper’s work up regarding a local event, a public crime, a landmark, etc. and let outside participants add their views at every point, edit in or out details they may have observed first-hand.

This technology may also go a step further to allow readers to arrange page design from a wave. Crazy? Maybe, but it’s one of many great ideas from the LA Times’ tech blog.

Great ideas

I mentioned these above, but you have to be sure you check out these posts that have great takes on the four ideas above.

  • Riding Google Wave’s Potential – Robert Quigley (of the Statesman), has a lot of hopes for Google Wave’s potential to transform community journalism via collaboration.
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