Google News founder joins board

Silicon Valley technology leader to help further the mission of innovation, entrepreneurship and leadership in journalism

Krishna Bharat, a Distinguished Research Scientist at Google and founder of Google News, has joined the board of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford University.

The program each year gives 20 journalists from around the world the opportunity to explore and develop proposals of their choosing to benefit journalism. It mentors journalists who will be the leaders and innovators in the evolving field of journalism and in countries where press freedoms are challenged. Fellows are enriched through interactions with one another, the academic resources of Stanford and the technology innovators of Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Knight Fellows have been engaged with Google News for the past several years. In an annual visit to its corporate offices, they present some of their ideas and learn about the latest Google News developments.

“I’m honored and pleased to be on the Board of Visitors for Stanford’s Knight Fellowship program,” said Bharat. “Journalism is undergoing an unprecedented transformation, instigated, propelled and aided by computing technology and the Internet. While the fundamental mission and core values of journalism have not changed, new options for sourcing, narrating, distributing, consuming, sharing, and monetizing news have emerged.

“This calls for innovation at all levels and a transformation of the workforce to embrace these new technologies. The Knight Fellowship program at Stanford is dedicated to doing exactly that, and I’m excited by the opportunity to participate and bring my expertise to bear.”

Bharat launched Google News in 2002. The automated news service that aggregates more than 50,000 sources today has 72 editions in over 30 languages. Google News won the 2003 Webby Award in the news category, and Bharat received the 2003 World Technology Award for Media & Journalism. In 2004 he founded Google’s R&D operations in India and served as the center’s first director until 2006.

Before joining Google in 1999, Bharat was a member of the research staff at DEC Systems Research Center in Palo Alto. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is a native of India and was raised in Bangalore. He received an undergraduate degree in computer science from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States were the catalyst for Google News. Eager to know what was happening, Bharat wished he could see news reports from multiple sources – in one place. So, he and his colleagues built a “crawling and clustering” system to re-organize news. The project, in line with Google’s goal of making information from around the world easily accessible and more useful, took hold.

Bharat joins nine other members of the Board of Visitors, which provides policy guidance and advice for the Knight Fellowships program, and serves as a primary link between the program and the global journalism community. The board comprises top journalism executives and leaders. Bharat will be the first member from the Silicon Valley technology community.

The other board members are Sandra Mims Rowe, chair, retired editor of the Portland Oregonian; Karen Dunlap, president of The Poynter Institute; Bruno Giussani, European director of TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design); Dori Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education; Geneva Overholser, director of the School of Journalism at the University of Southern California; Merval Pereira, political analyst for GloboNews cable television and the CBN radio news network; Stephen Proctor, managing editor of The San Francisco Chronicle; Rafael Santos, publications director of Casa Editorial El Tiempo; and Howard Weaver, former vice president of news at the McClatchy Company.

Journalism fellowships at Stanford began in 1966 with a three-year, $1 million grant from the Ford Foundation. They were so successful that Ford renewed the grant, matched by an equal amount raised from news organizations. From 1973 to 1984, funding shifted to the National Endowment for the Humanities, as part of its “Humanities for the Professions” program.

A $4 million grant from the Knight Foundation put the fellowships on a permanent, endowed basis beginning with the 1984-85 academic year. The Fellowships were renamed for John S. Knight, a distinguished American journalist whose major concern throughout a long career was the editorial quality of newspapers.

More than 900 journalists have held journalism fellowships at Stanford since the program began. Fellows have won numerous honors, including 26 Pulitzer Prizes and other major print, broadcast and online awards.

Google was created in 1998, two years after Stanford University graduate students Larry Page and Sergey Brin built a search engine called “BackRub” that used links to determine the importance of individual web pages. Today, Google is the world’s premiere search engine, with thousands of employees and offices around the world. It is the largest provider of web advertising and free task applications – in scores of languages.