I didn't get a chance to watch today's Senate hearing on the future of journalism. But after reading the testimony offered by Marissa Mayer, Google's VP of search product and user experience, I can only say that it doesn't add up.
For months now, we've heard Google CEO Eric Schmidt bemoan the decline of investigative journalism. At his now-famous discussion at an Advertising Age conference in July, he blamed the lack of tough journalistic questioning for the failure of U.S. policy in Iraq. While Internet entrepreneurs have found ways to monetize other types of information found in newspapers, Schmidt said, there's no sign that online publishers will be able to do the same for investigative journalism. Schmidt called the state of affairs "a tragedy for America," and said, "I'm very worried about it."
Meanwhile, Google has rolled out its plan to pursue philanthropy through Google.org, a for-profit subsidiary it launched early last year. Among the projects it is funding are a government transparency initiative, a global health and security plan, and a microcredit program to build a middle class in Africa and South Asia.
Great. So where's the journalism?
In her testimony before a Commerce subcommittee chaired by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the best Mayer could do today was talk about Google's pennies-for-clicks AdSense program and its "many tools for sharing information that are being used by newspapers." Hello - these are the same tools that force newspapers to give away the content they no longer can afford to generate.
I'm not sure if it's exactly the right metaphor, but I am reminded of FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina.
Schmidtie, you're doing a heckuva job.