The Gist for the Twitter Generation: The difference between my NYC Indymedia conversations with Google in early 2005 and the AP’s back and forth with Google in 2009 are instructive. In essence, the radical Indymedia network did everything it could to get aggregated by the monopolistic corporate search engine Google. We were worried that Google wouldn’t index us because of our politics or because they wouldn’t understand what we were doing. We had to fight to get on Google’s list, we thought we belonged on their list, and we wanted Google to “steal” as much of our content as they possibly would. The AP, on the other hand, would love to return to the days when a website like NYC Indymedia wouldn’t have shown up (even occasionallly) in any index of what’s authoritative news, or what constitutes “journalism that matters.” They still haven’t gotten used to the idea– even after having 7 years to think about it– that ordinary people can occasionally be journalists, and that these people would want to give a bunch of their journalism away for free.
Now, the rest:
In all the recent brouhaha about the AP’s saber rattling at Google and Google News, the comment that struck me the most was this one from AP Senior Vice-President Sue Cross. “One goal of The A.P. and its members, [Cross] said, is to make sure that the top search engine results for news are ‘the original source or the most authoritative source’ not a site that copied or paraphrased the work.”
This whole situation reminded me of my own battle with Google News, one that took place more than 5 years ago. It’s a very different battle than the one the AP was fighting, though. At the time, I was working for the citizen journalism website NYC Indymedia, which was probably at its institutional height. In early 2004, those of us with the Indymedia network (which was actually kind of like the AP insofar as we were a news sharing coop made up of local member organizations) first noticed Google News. We quickly decided we wanted our own radical journalism websites included in the Google News index– we thought that what we were doing really was journalism, and we thought that Google News would provide a useful cultural “certification” of the fact that ordinary people could occasionally be journalists. In December 2004, a volunteer with the Michigan Indymedia shared some bad news with the rest of the network:
Subject: suggestion: michiganimc.org
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 2004 22:25:43 -0400
I would like to suggest the Michigan Independent Media Center for Google News. please let me know more.
Date: Wed, 08 Dec 2004 14:12:54 -0800
From: Google News
Subject: Re: [#16123069] suggestion: michiganimc.org
Thank you for your note. We apologize for our delayed response. We have reviewed http://michiganimc.org but cannot include it in Google News at this time. We do not include sites that do not have a formal editoria review process. We appreciate your taking the time to contact us and will log your site for consideration should our requirements change.