Homo homini rodentius est

It’s Google’s News, and don’t you forget it.

There have been a few times when, in perusing the Google News site, it has appeared to me that stories that show their main competitor, Microsoft, in a bad light get prominent coverage, but good news not as much. Yesterday settled any doubts I had about the objectivity of that exercise in New Media: on a day when Microsoft made a very significant announcement about the launch of their health care initiative, HealthVault, there was nary a mention of it on Google News. I checked throughout the day and it never showed up. Not in the Sci/Tech section. Not in the Health section. Not even in the Business section. Could the Microsoft news blackout on Google News have anything to do with the fact that Google is also developing a product to manage consumer health information, though [not as successfully] as Microsoft?

[Link] that opens a new window with archive of Google News from yesterday.

Clicking the image link to the right will bring up an archived view of what Google News was publishing at about 6:30pm yesterday when I got home from work. This is at a point in the day when many people go looking for news and when it should be clear what the most important news stories of the day are — but there’s nothing about HealthVault. It can’t be that the information wasn’t “news worthy”, because the New York Times featured the launch prominently on their site. Prominent tech sites like [TechCrunch] covered it. In fact, using another news aggregator (that is not in direct competition with Microsoft), Techmeme, we can look back at [an archived view] of that site at 6pm yesterday and the prominence of the Microsoft announcement is apparent. [According to Google], “Our articles are selected and ranked by computers that evaluate, among other things, how often and on what sites a story appears online. As a result, stories are sorted without regard to political viewpoint or ideology and you can choose from a wide variety of perspectives on any given story”. Without regard to political viewpoint or ideology. They don’t say anything about regard to Google’s PR. This is not merely a curious glitch in the vaunted computer algorithms — it is, I suspect, evidence that news selections that appear on the Google News page are subject to some very old-fashioned human filtering.

Things like this should be enough to put a cork in some of the more [hyperbolic] New Media [bloviators] who constantly herald the death of traditional media forms while touting the virtues of “Web 2.0” bounders. With Asperger-like devotion to all things algorithmic and inhuman, they conveniently overlook the fact that it has taken generations to build trustworthy journalistic institutions where objectivity — if not perfectly met — is at least aspired to and professional standards include more than merely serving the bottom-line. When it comes to the commercial takeover of the Net, we are subject to upstarts who care little about time-tested standards. Their standards are profit-making and self-serving PR and information is merely the means to those ends.

Don’t be evil. Yeah, got it.

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