Nieman Journalism Lab has investigated how much of the news that can be found on Google is actually real reporting as opposed to news repeating the reporting of others. It found that 11% contained original reporting.
But, and it is a big but, this research was carried out into treatment of a single big story about Chinese hacking on Google. Out of 121 unique stories written following a report from the New York Times, just 13 contained some original reporting and just seven were based primarily on original reporting.
Reporter Jonathan Stray asks:
"When I think of how much human effort when into re-writing those hundred other unique stories that contained no original reporting, I cringe. That's a huge amount of journalistic effort that could have gone into reporting other deserving stories. Why are we doing this? What are the legal, technical, economic and cultural barriers to simply linking to the best version of each story and moving on?"
It may well be that this one story is representative of a bigger truth about news on the web, but maybe some more analysis is required, as well as the thinking about what sort of journalism is important.
The other important "but" to mention here is that this investigation was carried out last month. However, it came to my attention when a series of tweets appeared from the SXSW tech conference in Texas. Somewhere at the conference it had been said that "only 12% of google news is original source". Via a series of tweets it quickly assumed authenticity. But there was no sourcing for the comment, no attribution, no explanation.
On a related topic, see also Stephen Glover in the Independent today about the veracity of the Sarkozy/Bruni relationship speculation. For a story that has been widely contemplated, Glover points out: "There is, in fact, no evidence at all – only unsourced rumours on the internet."