More than a year after former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali was ousted from power in Tunisia – an event credited with kick-starting the so-called Arab Spring – Google has announced that it’s teaming up with Le Monde to give six Tunisian journalists the chance to work at the French newspaper as part of an internship programme.
“Six Tunisian journalists are coming to Paris to work for three months in the Le Monde newsroom,” says William Echikson, Google’s External Relations and ‘Head of Free Expression’, Europe, Middle East and Africa. “The journalists will help cover daily news and the upcoming French Presidential election. Our hope is that they then will return home with new skills that will serve to construct a new, free but responsible professional press in Tunisia.”
Le Monde is a French daily evening newspaper owned by La Vie-Le Monde Group and edited in Paris. Although French isn’t an official language of Tunisia, due to France’s former occupation of the country French does play a major role in Tunisia and is widely used, which should help ease the journalists into working life in a foreign country.
Google has been upping its efforts to distance itself from accusations that it’s destroying journalism, and has also sponsored a number of contests to “help stimulate innovation in digital reporting”. Organized by the Global Editors Network (GEN), the GEN Data Journalism Awards celebrate some of the best examples of data journalism from both established news organisations and newcomers.
This followed a $5m donation it made to non-profit organizations promoting new forms of journalism, including $2 million to the Knight Foundation, and $3 million invested internationally.
The fact that Google is aligning itself with more and more journalism initiatives is certainly a proactive PR move on the company’s part, but it will likely do little to stave off accusations that the search giant has eroded the revenues of major media companies, even though all it does is aggregate content.
The six Google internship winners include reporters from across the politics and digital culture sphere, covering editors, photographers and broadcasters.
“At Google, we are aware of the need to work with publishers to smooth the transition not only from oppression to freedom, but from analogue to digital distribution,” adds Echikson. “We are sponsoring a series of digital journalism prizes with Institut de Sciences Politiques, the International Press Institute in Vienna and the Global Editors Network in Paris. We also are the proud backer of Reporters Without Borders’ annual Netizen of the Year award. In addition, we have come up with a series of products such as Adsense to split online ad revenues with publishers.”
Echikson also notes that Google is building a series of “new Internet tools” to enable better interaction between politicians and voters “to support free elections” across North Africa and the Middle East.