The latest Google News Initiative (GNI) effort aims to equip up to 4,000 reporters in Australia and New Zealand with free digital training this year, building on its mission to support local newsrooms.

John Bergin was brought in as project manager for the GNI Training Program at the Walkley Foundation for Journalism in February 2019 to spearhead the scheme. It will start to be rolled out in March.

Students, lecturers, journalists, editors and publishers are encouraged to get in touch to receive training. However, Bergin said that his team will be reaching out to news organisations, as well as colleges and universities, in New Zealand and Australia to set up training sessions in the coming months.

These will typically be held in small groups of about 30 people for up to three hours. The scheme aims to deliver a hands-on experience of tools ranging from refining information and analysing data trends, to using satellite imagery to enhance your storytelling.

"It will be sleeves rolled up, laptops open, and experimenting with online tools and real-world examples," said Bergin.

"We’ll also be equipping journalists with the latest means of fighting mis- and disinformation. We live in a time where anyone can share news material if they have access to a smartphone, an internet connection, and a social media account.

"It’s enormously empowering to those who use it for good — especially those who have previously not had the means to tell their stories — but sadly there are also bad actors who use the same technology to deceive and harm."

Bergin pointed to the examples of First Draft News and Storyful as ’gold standards’ of making sense of what is happening on social media, and as important examples to follow with this programme.

"It will not be ‘the Google show.’ Google makes hundreds of products used by billions of people across the globe, from YouTube to Android, and, of course, Google Search," he said.

"But the training sessions will be focused on what works best for journalists and newsrooms. There will be a focus on the latest digital tools and practices, irrespective of who builds them and who provides them.

"That will be the mindset as we approach three broad areas of learning. For journalists, there will be a focus on practical tools that you can use immediately. For publishers, there will be a learning programme that shows you how to open new digital revenue streams and optimise content for a digital audience."

Bearing in mind that more than half of the media workforce in Australia and New Zealand work in freelance or insecure employment, Bergin says that special freelance sessions will be organised to cater for their busy schedules and specific needs. 

"The Australian government has acknowledged the need for increased support for rural and regional news services, following a Senate inquiry into the future of public interest journalism. So, our trainers will also be travelling to regional areas and working with local news outlets and institutions to make sure they don't miss out," said Bergin.

"The New Zealand and Australian public are well-served by a free press, but it’s clear that media consumers are becoming increasingly more demanding of quality information.

"The technical and data literacy of the typical reader has improved dramatically over the past decade because more often than not they’re encountering the news on their mobile devices and in new formats. Then, there’s the fact that the internet already has a long history of bypassing traditional gatekeepers and providing tools that have improved people’s ability to understand information.

"The Google News Initiative Training Network is a response to these changes and an acknowledgement that technology and journalism go hand-in-hand. Technology is empowering, but it also requires new capabilities, new workflows and new ways of thinking in our newsrooms."

Want to reach more digital readers? Find out how to kickstart an effective digital strategy at Newsrewired on 6 March at Reuters, London.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).