Why you must use Google Alerts
If the president of your college turns up as a finalist in a presidential search 1,000 miles away, how soon do you want to know? If your answer is anything other than “now, of course,” perhaps this student media thing is not for you.
So, stop what you’re doing and write “CREATE GOOGLE ALERTS” on whatever serves as your to-do list. (Don’t have a to-do list? Better get one before your adviser finds out.)
What will you set your alerts for? Start with the name of your college president with the name of your college. Ditto for any other top campus officials. Is your college competing for a big grant, does it have a relationship with a big corporation? Add alerts for those. You might want an alert for a relatively unknown sport or conference that you cover. (Don’t create an alert for “college football.” You’ll drown in the results.)
Also important is where your alerts will go. Don’t send them to someone’s personal mailbox. What if she’s out sick when that important story turns up in an alert? Create an account accessible to everyone responsible for breaking news at any point. (And, yes, even in small newsrooms it’s time to figure out who is responsible for getting breaking news online each and every day.)
Google Alerts will bring you “mainstream” stories but also blog posts you’d never have noticed otherwise. (Every neighborhood near your campus has bloggers who may turn up interesting things in the course of complaining about the noisy neighbors.)
Encourage reporters to use alerts anytime they are working on a big subject. For instance, here’s an account of how Google Alerts can provide “breaking news” even about a long-dead story subject.
You also can use Google Alerts to monitor what the world is saying about you and your organization, as this PR-oriented post explains.
Disclosure: I don’t earn a cent from Google, but I can dream.