Journalism education in the UK has a digital problem.

I’ve worked with a number of universities offering journalism degrees now – and there’s a consistent pattern. While there are a few bright spots of very deep digital knowledge, it’s unevenly spread, even within individual departments. It’s no great surprise – many journalism academics left the industry for the (not very) ivory towers before digital became a big thing, and sometimes the feedback they’re getting from the industry is from people who don’t well understand it themselves.

That needs to change, and the new Google News Lab University Initiative looks like a useful step in the right direction.

Google News Lab University Network

The Network is designed to provide in-person training when possible, and online training materials and support to professors and students on topics ranging from Google tool fundamentals, trust and verification, immersive storytelling, data journalism, advanced search and Google Trends, data visualization, mapping and more. We also want to celebrate and promote academic journalism projects that use Google tools.

Now, there’s clearly a bias towards providing education on Google tools – and that needs to be handled with caution, as we don’t want a generation of journalists to grow up effectively indoctrinated with the idea that Google tools are the tools for journalism. But every single initiative that helps up the baseline knowledge of digital skills – especially verification – in journalism academia, has to be a good thing.

I’m glad to see City, University of London, where I do most of my lecturing, is on the list of participating institutions.