Google is often thought of as a scourge of traditional newspapers; Dow Jones Chief Executive Les Hinton once called the search giant a digital vampire because of how it profits from content it doesn't generate (in part by linking to articles without sharing ad revenue with publishers). But that isn't, of course, how Google wants to be perceived. So this week the company announced that it is giving $5 million in grants to non-profits working on innovations in digital journalism.
Two million dollars is going to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation--$1 million for grant-making in the U.S., and $1 million to supplement the Knight News Challenge, which awards cash for "innovative ideas that develop platforms, tools and services to inform and transform community news, conversations and information distribution and visualization." The remaining $3 million will go towards journalism projects in other countries. Google will announce more details on that early next year.
Why does Google care about journalism? Because, according to the Google News blog, "Journalism is fundamental to a functioning democracy." And with more and more publishers bringing their content online, Google purportedly feels a responsibility to help journalism along. A $5 million donation is hardly enough to pull traditional journalism out of its seemingly never-ending free fall, but it's a start. And we certainly won't begrudge Google for trying.