Miguel Helft of The New York Times writes today about the slow growth of Google News, based in Mountain View, and how it gets beat on big breaking stories, like the death of Tim Russert. Google News was about an hour late reporting his death, which Google News “blamed a technical problem for the delay and said it was not a sign that its news site, whose content is compiled entirely by computer programs, lacks timeliness. Helft quotes former Merc columnist Dan Gillmor, now director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at the journalism school of Arizona State University, as saying:

    “I’ve actually been surprised at how little it has evolved, at least on the surface … I’m guessing that Google isn’t so sure what to do with it.”

While Helft says the site is “stuck in neutral,” Google executives defend it, saying traffic is not their goal. Google News, they say, helps the company produce better search results and helps users find news sources that they might not know about otherwise.

SF Press Club News

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