I have been unhappy with Google News search for a long time. Over the years it’s become less information-rich, with a number of useless sources slipping through (I wrote about this in 2019.) On top of that, the Internet is filling up with fake local news sites. I can’t imagine the introduction of ChatGPT and AI-generation tools is going to do anything but make it worse.
I use the Internet to discover and learn and hopefully to help OTHER people discover and learn. Trying to navigate through all the junk and garbage populating Google News search is unsatisfying and annoying and too often unfruitful.
I’ve been thinking about possible ways around this for a while. If the main problem with my Google search for news is that there’s too much fake junk, why not create a way to direct my search through a list of media news outlets and search THEIR sites exclusively? Unfortunately my attempts at a solution didn’t work well. I couldn’t find a news outlet list that was open, free, and accessible, and when I did find a good group (like a membership page for a statewide newspaper association, for example) it was too limited in scope.
A few days ago I crumpled everything up and started over with the idea of using Wikipedia to find media sources. And that worked, so I’m pleased to share with you the Non-Sketchy News Search ( https://searchgizmos.com/nsns/ ).
Let me show you its features!
Using the Non-Sketchy News Search
The NSNS lets you search Wikipedia categories by news source. Choose a category and you’ll get a list of the media outlets with Web sites in that category. Choose as many on the list as you like (with the caveat that Google has a search limit of 32 words) and they’ll be bundled into a Google search via Google’s site: syntax along with your original query and opened in a new tab. Easy peasy.
For example, say you want to learn more about banned books in Florida. I’m going to start with the Google query and search for Wikipedia categories which contain the Miami Herald, a Florida newspaper. (I’m looking for categories which contain media in Florida, so the Miami Herald or any actual Florida newspaper works fine.) Then I click the Search for Wikipedia Categories Containing this Outlet button.
I’ll get a drop-down menu of all relevant categories containing the outlet for which you searched (the results are filtered, more about that later.) I’ll choose a category (in this case Mass media in Miami) and click the List Media Outlets With Web Sites From This Category button.
Now you have to wait a few seconds. Depending on whether you chose a category with a lot of media outlets, you may have to wait several seconds. In the case of this search, I waited about five seconds before I got a list of 17 media based in Miami with Web sites. I’ve cropped the list a bit but you get the idea. I’ve checked the news outlets I want to search and when I’m done I’ll click the Site: Search Google for the Outlets You Checked button.
When I check the button, a new browser tab opens with a Google search containing your original query and a site: search for the sources you chose.
Obviously using this you are not going to get the bajillion results you would from an open Google search. On the other hand, I think you’ll find the results a lot more focused and useful. You also know you can check the Wikipedia article on the outlet if you want to.
I’ve also discovered that I can get some search focus options that aren’t available with Google. If I search for the Daily Tar Heel I can search media focused on the University of North Carolina:
You can also find outlets nationwide that report on a particular theme. I did a search for Bay Area Reporter and got a big list of LGBTQ media outlets:
A surprising but wonderful discovery was that I could use NSNS to find English-language news outlets in other countries. Here’s what I found after I did a search for the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun:
I got the Non-Sketchy News Search working on Saturday and spent Sunday playing with it on-and-off. It works really well but does have problems. Here’s where I’m dissatisfied:
- Limited sources mean limited results: Considering Google’s 32-word query limit I’m afraid this is baked-in. On the other hand, when I need to do focused news search, whether it’s topical or location-based, I suspect this is going to be a feature instead of a bug.
- Not all possible resources are included: True. On the other hand junk is not included. Further, I suspect it’s easier to set up your news outlet with a Wikipedia page than it is to figure out Google’s inclusion requirements.
- The categories are limited: This is on me. Right now the only categories you’ll get in your search results are ones that include the strings “news” or “media”. I didn’t want you to get ridiculous categories. I could relax it some and include strings for radio or television stations. On the other hand I could go in the other direction and figure out several categories to make searchable, like NGOs or area-based searches.
Sound fun? Let me know. Thanks for reading.
Categories: RB Search Gizmos