Any "reporters" who were fired during the mass layoffs last year at Vice, the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed might want to think about sending a resume Google's way (though it's highly probable that the search behemoth has them all on file already).
According to Axios, Google is partnering with McClatchy to launch a new local news venture under the auspices of its Google News Initiative.
Last year, the tech giant pledged to invest $300 million over three years in locally-focused digital media ventures, a decision that was widely seen as a sop to critics who accused Google, Facebook and other tech giants of helping to dismantle the US media industry. Now, details of its plans are beginning to leak. The first step, apparently, will be launching locally focused digital news ventures in three medium-sized US cities - that is, cities with a population less than half a million people.
McClatchy and Google chose mid-sized cities based on the belief that they have been the hardest hit by the hollowing out of the newspaper industry business model (as Google's advertising business sapped newspapers of critical advertising revenue). Google added that smaller cities tend to have a stronger sense of community, which could be easier to tap into.
The sites will be run by McClatchy, which will exercise sole editorial control over the sites. Google will have zero input into their operation. Richard Gingras, Google's VP of news, said the investment will be "significant", involving "many millions of dollars."
No hiring plans have been announced, but the initiative - termed "the Compass Project" - will eventually hire journalists who will report on-the-ground in all three cities.
Google sees McClatchy CEO Craig Forman as the best candidate to run the initiative, given his overlapping experience as a newsman and a tech executive.
If the initiative is successful, Google will expand it to still more cities.
While J-school students will undoubtedly rejoice at the prospect of hundreds of new jobs being created in their industry, it's worth remembering that prior tech-financed forays into the local news business failed abysmally (remember Patch.com?).
Still, given Google's massive resources, it can afford to brook losses while spending generously. After all, the only resources required to build a digital news organization are people to produce the content, and web hosting to publish it online. In further good news, the Wall Street Journal said Monday that it would hire 50 new newsroom staffers to work on Apple's News+ product, which will reportedly feature some of WSJ's breaking news offerings.
Then again, former Buzzfeed staffers might find these jobs less-than-desirable, since taking one would probably require leaving their comfortable urban bubbles in Brooklyn or Oakland and moving to some backwoods hellhole like Kansas City or Wichita.
And where's the fun in being a "journalist" if you can't publicly complain about your rent and drunkenly scoff down avocado toast in Crown Heights with all of your Twitter "influencer" friends?