In discussions of the newspaper industry’s seemingly inevitable collapse, Google is probably most often cited as the reason why many people stopped paying for news. As the argument goes, why pay when you can find the information you need through a simple search?
It’s a straightforward thesis that nonetheless glosses over any number of other forces that have chipped away at newspapers’ profits: Craigslist; the economy; advertiser confidence; oh, and, yeah, giving away the content for free.
While Google remains sensitive to those claims (as they have every right to be), recently the Internet giant tacitly acknowledged the profound effect it’s had on newspapers by unveiling a journalism fellowship. Yes, journalism. Google will pay, albeit a modest sum, for eight journalism students to learn about data-driven reporting starting in June.
“As a company dedicated to making the world’s information easily accessible, Google recognizes that behind many blue links is a journalist and that quality journalism is a key ingredient of a vibrant and functioning society,” the company said in its announcement about the fellowship.
Not only because of its reference to the blue-coded links that once colored an early era of the commercial Internet, the statement about the value of journalism feels like a delayed reaction. Had we heard this in the late 1990s, those words might have quelled concerns from more than a few nervous editors and media owners at the time.
Still, money is money, even if it is just a $7,500 stipend plus $1,000 in travel for a 10-week program. It starts at the Knight Foundation and ends with a week at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, where fellows will spend part of that week with the algo-heads at Google News and the rest of that time at YouTube.
To be eligible, applicants have to be enrolled in a university program and be a U.S. citizen. Deadline is Jan. 31, 2013. Go rake some muck.