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News Editor

Google’s gift to news hounds

Dec 09, 20023 mins
Enterprise Applications

Here’s a self-centered observation that also just happens to be defensible: Nothing can really be said to represent an advance in search technology unless it helps me – yes, me – easily and quickly find something at the exact moment when that something is of use to – all together now – me.

Google’s news-search feature, available for a beta spin at, passes the “me first” test with flying colors. News junkies – and especially working journalists – are certain to find the tool to be a time saver . . . if not addictive.

Google News, as it’s called, taps into some 4,000 online news sources and presents the reader with a constantly updated menu of the moment’s freshest and most compelling press accounts. Want to follow a breaking news story? The feature will not only keep tabs on related coverage from around the globe, but will tell you exactly how long ago a particular story was posted.

It’s become an every-day destination.

. . . may include a cruel catch

Even columnists have their favorite columnists, and for the longest time mine has been Slate’s Michael Kinsley. (Those who don’t read Slate might remember Kinsley from his days playing the voice of reason to Pat Buchanan’s voice of insanity on CNN’s “Crossfire.”) This admiration for Kinsley’s work is no doubt rooted in the uncommon application of logic and flare that is found in his writing. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I agree with the guy just about always. This week we seem to have agreed to write about the same topic: that Google News feature.

Kinsley’s piece, which can be read here, focuses on the implication for journalists of the fact that Google apparently employs none of us to help present its constantly updated menu of news.

“Google News is highly unusual in that it offers a news service compiled solely by computer algorithms without human intervention,” Google boasts on its Web site. “While the sources of the news vary in perspective and editorial approach, their selection for inclusion is done without regard to political viewpoint or ideology.”

That last contention is sure to be challenged.

But Kinsley’s point – delivered somewhat tongue in cheek – is that we may be looking at the future of the news business.

Pass me the want ads, please.

Attorneys general tune out the fat lady

Pick your favorite cliché: tilting at windmills, throwing good money after bad, not knowing when to quit. They all apply to the decision of the attorneys general of Massachusetts and West Virginia to press on with an antitrust case against Microsoft that is every bit as over as Thanksgiving.

”Microsoft is powerful and has unlimited resources, and from the beginning has been able to wear down and crush anyone who gets in their way,” Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Riley told The Boston Globe. ”But it’s important that someone stays the course, and Massachusetts will, and bring this to a conclusion.”

That sounds noble enough, but it’s actually disingenuous . . . at best. As with every arm of law enforcement, Riley’s office makes difficult decisions every day that are based on practical assessments of the likelihood of success. Prosecutors pass on cases all the time – even though they are sure of the miscreant’s guilt – because they know from experience that winning the desired outcome is next to impossible.

This one is impossible. Let it go.

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