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How journalists can use Google Voice

This article originally appeared on the author’s blog “Six Times an Hour.”

Imagine being able to give out one phone number to sources and clients that would ring every phone you own, increasing your availability for scoops and story ideas while keeping your actual phone numbers private.

A few years ago, a service called GrandCentral launched with one big idea: One phone number that can reach all of your physical handsets, including your desk phone, your cell phone and your home phone. In 2009, Google purchased Grandcentral and relaunched the service as ‘Google Voice,’ and recently the service was taken out of its invitation-only state and became available to anyone who had a Google account (if you have a Gmail or YouTube username, you have a Google account).

Why journalists should use Google Voice:

  • It’s free: The core features of Google Voice (a phone number, text messages, voice mail, etc) are free.
  • It’s like a real phone number: Google Voice gives you tons of features you probably already use on your home or cell phone, including the ability to receive calls, text messages and voice mail.
  • One number for all phones: Give out one phone number to your sources that rings your personal cell, work cell and desk phone at the same time.
  • Privacy: Don’t feel comfortable handing out your cell phone number or printing it on business cards? Hand out your Google Voice number and be reached wherever you are — your contacts, sources and clients won’t ever need to know your actual phone numbers. Stick it on your business cards and your email signature without fear.
  • Annoyance Control: Contact or client bugging you non-stop? Google Voice has options to send them straight to voicemail or block them outright. Don’t want to receive phone calls at home during certain hours? Google Voice will let you schedule certain numbers for certain times.
  • Second area code: Let’s say you live in the 530, but work in the 916. Go local where you work or live by signing up for Google Voice.
  • Changing physical phone numbers: What if you move from one job to another? Just change your desk number, house number or work cell phone number (or all three) in Google Voice and your contacts move right along with you.
  • Respond to texts at your desk: The Google Voice website will let you send and receive free text messages from within the website itself.
What Google Voice Can’t Do:
  • Multimedia messages: You can’t currently receive picture or video messages through Google Voice, but that’s soon changing. Sprint users can currently receive MMS messages by email through Google Voice.
  • Keep your phone number hidden via Caller ID: Well, it can, but not if you’re straight-up using your phone. The Google Voice website and app both have options to call out using your Google Voice number, but there’s currently no native way to call using just your phone via Google Voice, so if you use your personal cell phone or home phone quite a bit for work purposes, it might be a good idea to research ways to block your phone number from going out via Caller ID.
Advanced Google Voice features for journalists (or, really, anyone):
  • Cell phone number porting: Don’t want a brand-new Google Voice number? You can port your existing cell phone number to Google Voice. There is a one-time $20 charge for Google Voice porting.
  • Vanity numbers:  When you sign up for a Google Voice number, you can enter a short word or collection of letters that will coincide with the numbers on a keypad. My Google Voice number ends in “5895,” which coincided with the call letters of my old station “KTXL.” Shorter keywords/letters yield more phone number results; if you can’t find a phone number with the keyword you want, try a different area code.
  • Change your Google Voice number. Change newsrooms? You’ll probably want to change that vanity phone number. For $10, Google Voice will allow you to change your phone number while keeping your old number active for three months. Want to keep your original Google Voice number permanently? Google Voice will let you do that too for $20.
  • Pick up a call in one spot, end it in another: Out in the field when you get a call on your cell phone? Transfer it to your desk phone when you get back into the newsroom by pressing *. Your other phones linked to your Google Voice account will ring. Pick up the phone and pick up where you left off.
  • Record your call as an MP3: Press 4 during a call to record it as an MP3. An announcement will be heard on both ends when recording is activated. You can then download the call from within the Google Voice website the next time you log in.
There are tons of other Google Voice features available, including the ability to set up groups, international calling and conference calls. Click here to see the Google Voice “features” page.
Ready to sign up? Visit, log in with your Google account and get going!

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 11 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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