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Computers to write 30,000 local news stories a month

Computers are set to write up to 30,000 stories a month for use in local media as a result of a robot reporting project developed by the Press Association.

The national news agency has been awarded a £700,000 grant by Google as part of its £150m Digital News Initiative for a project which it says will “scale up the mass localisation of news content.”

A team of five journalists will use open government and local authority databases, and story templates, to generate automatic stories about health, crime, employment and other subjects.

The project – Reporters and Data and Robots (RADAR) – is being developed in conjunction with the data journalism start-up Urbs Media, launched by former Local World executive Alan Renwick.

PA said in a statement: “RADAR is intended to meet the increasing demand for consistent, fact-based insights into local communities, for the benefit of established regional media outlets, as well as the growing sector of independent publishers, hyperlocal outlets and bloggers.

“Natural Language Generation software will be applied to produce multiple versions of stories, to scale up the mass localisation of news content.”

PA editor Pete Clifton said: “We believe our partnership with Urbs Media can be a genuine game-changer for media outlets across the UK and Ireland.

“At a time when many media outlets are experiencing commercial pressures, RADAR will provide the news ecosystem with a cost-effective way to provide incisive local stories, enabling audiences to hold democratic bodies to account.

“We have already provided an outline of our plans to some of our regional customers, and they have been universally positive. One described it as ‘genius’.

“Skilled human journalists will still be vital in the process, but RADAR allows us to harness artificial intelligence to scale up to a volume of local stories that would be impossible to provide manually.”

Alan Renwick added: “”Urbs exists to harness the power of data and automation to supply important stories across local markets. PA is our perfect partner, with the scale, skills and platforms to develop our ideas.

“We’re delighted that the Google DNI Innovation Fund has selected our joint RADAR project to boost local media and democracy.”

RADAR is scheduled to launch in early 2018.


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  • July 7, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    Somewhere between “multiple versions of stories, to scale up the mass localisation of news content” and “to harness artificial intelligence to scale up to a volume of local stories”, I lost it.
    Can anyone translate this pile of marketing squit and explain how “the news ecosystem” will enable “audiences” to hold democratic bodies to account.

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  • July 7, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    I’m reminded of this excellent piece, entitled “Auto-Beatnik Poem No. 41: Insects”, which was created by a computer programme as part of an early AI experiment in California during the Sixties:

    All children are small and crusty
    An iron can saw all dragons
    And all pale, blind, humble waters are cleaning
    And flying woefully is like closing sweetly
    An insect, dumb and torrid, comes of the daddy-o
    How is an insect into this fur?

    Funnily enough, it makes a lot more sense than some of the news stories I’ve seen published straight to the web…

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  • July 7, 2017 at 8:09 pm

    Number of randomly typing monkeys edges ever closer to infinity.

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