Television news broadcaster Ted Koppel prompted an interesting discussion at the Zeitgeist Google conference in LA - should Google manipulate the news content readers see?
A senior editor of The New Yorker, Nicholas Thompson, then posed the question: should Google alter its algorithms to show people the news the serious news they 'should' see instead of the entertainment news they might want to read?
Actually, in a sense they are already doing so: Larry Page, Google CEO, told the conference that Google had a responsibility to improve the media. Something which, many would argue, they already do.
Although the company clearly states that its algorithms do not exercise editorial control, Google's algorithms do edit some of the content readers see. Tagged content is placed differently within the search results, usually prioritised by labels such as the new 'standout' tag.
Google also makes an effort to reduce the content its readers see from content farms and other sites that simply recycle press releases, as GigaOm explains. So, in many ways, Google already manipulates the selection content its users will view.
But should Larry Page's agenda of media improvement extend to highlighting stories that focus on serious issues, such as global poverty and conflict?
Ted Koppel said '"It wouldn't be a bad idea."' Matthew Ingram of GigaOm sees it differently and compares the idea to the UK Labour Party's recent plans to regulate journalists as it encourages overriding authority to pass judgement on the content of the media.
Is editing the content that appears on Google an acceptable method of promoting serious journalistic content? Or does it interfere with the reader's freedom of choice? If that is true, then what can be done to encourage readers to click on more serious journalistic content?