Google News is letting people and companies post comments alongside the stories. The catch? They have to be one of the article’s subjects.
This is a significant development: Good journalists try to be objective, but it’s near impossible to see the situation through their subjects’ eyes. The process required to fashion a series of facts and quotes into a compact narrative inevitably loses a degree of context and depth.
Letting story subjects respond could enrich the stories and increase a reader’s understanding in a way traditional media reporting cannot.
Because of the reach and breadth of Google News, subjects have a strong incentive to comment, and Google will display these comments more prominently than the average online newspaper or magazine.
Of course, as Philip Lenssen from Google Blogoscoped points out, this feature also opens the floodgates for spin, rants, and outright lies. But even this content broadens the story and can be interesting in its own way. At the same time, by keeping the conversation on Google’s site, it could have a negative affect on blogs, where these discussions tend to take place.
To post comments, subjects have to write to email@example.com, add a link to the story, and give information that will enable Google verify that they are who they say they are.
Philip also notes that this process, which would seem to require significant manual effort, is strange for Google, considering their love of automation.
We look forward to watching the experiment unfold.