sports gazette

INSIDE THE INDUSTRY: Matt Cooke on Google News Lab and the future of journalism

Published: 30 May 2017

To kick off our special ‘Inside the Industry’ series, asking journalists what they do and why, Sports Gazette met Google News Lab’s Matt Cooke to talk about the future!

‘Digital’ is a by-word of 21st-century journalism. Since the Internet was first launched in 1990, many industry experts were quick to realise its potential.

A major advantage of the digital age is the increased pace of news- if you’re on the scene of a story, one quick snap of your camera phone and it’s online!

There are disadvantages to this as well, such as the lack of trust and ‘fake news’. But a viable product of the digital age is data journalism.

With more statistics available, news stories led by trends in Google searches and analysis of information have hit homepages of market-leading websites.

Journalists are constantly learning about these new techniques- this is where Matt Cooke comes in.

Matt was a reporter and presenter at the BBC from 2004 until joining Google's events production team in 2011.

In 2015, Matt became a Lead for UK, Ireland and Nordics of the Google News Lab, a site which offers training and insight into trends, for the UK, Ireland and Nordics.

So, what is his take on the rise in data journalism- is it bringing an end to ‘quality’ journalism?

Matt said: “Audiences are still craving quality journalism- they still want expert analysis of the things they’re seeing on social media and online.

“Yes, lots of people can now create content with their phones, recording video, but they still want that expert analysis.

“We’ve seen lots of quality journalism on big news websites doing really well around the world. They’re thinking of new ways to tell stories, and that’s really been engaging their audience.”

I think we’re likely to see news to continue to evolve and use those tools

Social media has a big part to play in the spread of news today but Matt believes there are various views on how useful it is for news sourcing.

“Social media isn’t going anywhere,” Matt said. “It’s something that’s readily available, and I think we’re likely to see news continue to evolve and use those tools.

“As a journalist, I often used social media platforms to find content I could use in my story-telling or at least in my news gathering.”

During a talk at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, Matt explained how stories are being told by maps, Virtual Reality and even 360-degree cameras.

The Guardian’s award-winning Virtual Reality piece, ‘6x9: a virtual experience of solitary confinement’, was also cited as an example of the future. Will all stories look like this soon?

Matt said: “We’re still seeing lots of organisations experimenting with Google Maps, adding their own editorial layer which requires no coding experience and can be done in half an hour.

“There’s lots of different experiments going on and lots of different publishers- big and small- using these tools to engage new audiences and tell the story a different way.”

BT Sport will allow viewers to watch the Champions League final this year in Virtual Reality. What else could we see in the next few years?

“We are at the stage with VR where phones were in the 1980s,” Matt said.

“As a journalist, it’s amazing to see how news organisations in Europe are starting to experiment this year.

“Who knows? I think the story should come first and the technology second. But VR gives the story a new layer.”

Stay tuned for more features in our 'Inside the Industry' series, including:

Emma Paton, Sub-editor & Digital journalist, Sky Sports News

Hugh Woozencroft, BBC Sportsday presenter

Matt Lawton, Chief sports reporter, Daily Mail

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