Another Example of Google News' Odd Choices of Sources

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Here’s another typical example (click the illustration above) of Google News‘ odd choices of news sources. It’s a snapshot from about 2000 hours UTC on 3 August 2004.

Google chose the Chinese government news agency Xinhua as the most relevant source of Google News’ top two stories. Both of those are U.S. domestic stories that are much more widely, relevantly, and authoritatively reported by U.S. news organizations.

In its World news section, Google selected Xinhua as the most relevant source for two of the top three World stories and chosen Al-Jazeera as the third. The Xinhua stories are datelined the United Nations and Ankara, Turkey. It can be argued that Xinhua might have had the best coverage of these news events, but is unlikely. The Al-Jazeera story is about a European Union decision about Israel. Is Al-Jazeera the most authoritative source of that EU story? Google apparently choose Al-Jazeera over The Australian, Boston Globe, Melbourne Herald Sun, New York Times, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age of Sydney, and 444 other possible sources of that story.

And Google News chose Xinhua as the most relevant source for a story about a speech that U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge gave in New York City; selected the Voice of America as the most relevant source for a story about U.S. Congressional Hearings; and chose UPI as the most relevant source of a story about U.S. Presidential candidate John Kerry’s former activities agains the Vietnam War. I doubt that Xinhua had the better, more relevant, or more authoritative coverage of Ridge’s speech than the 1,502 other sources that Google lists for the story. The VoA might have been the best of the Congressional hearings. But I do wonder if UPI, a company that once had 1,500 reporters worldwide but now has somewhere around 20 had the best, most relevant, or most authoritative story about the heavily reported Kerry campaign.

Is Xinhua really the most relevant news source for three of the top five news stories from the U.S.? Or five of the top eight stories worldwide? Or are the folks at Google who run this operation spending too much time absent without leave at the Search Engine Strategies Conference in San Jose this week?

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