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Regionals sign up to robot reporting scheme which has created 100,000 stories

Regional publishers are among the first paying customers for a robot reporting scheme launched by the Press Association.

PA’s RADAR (Reporters and Data and Robots) automated news service was launched in December 2017, and involves a team of six reporters using official databases and story templates to generate automated reports about subjects such as health, crime and employment.

The service, which has filed more than 100,000 stories to date, has been supported by the regional press, and now eight different companies have subscribed to RADAR’s paid-for service.

Archant, Baylis Media, JPIMedia, Iliffe Media and the Midland News Association have signed up, along with independent community news services the Caerphilly Observer and The Paper for Honiton publisher Newscraft.

A Shropshire Star front page featuring RADAR content

A Shropshire Star front page featuring RADAR content

UKRD Group, which owns and operates 10 commercial radio stations, is also involved.

Gary Rogers, editor-in-Chief of RADAR, said: “RADAR has evolved from a Google-backed experiment in data journalism to a subscription-based business providing an essential service to local and regional media in the UK.

“Our model makes the service equally accessible to small hyperlocals and larger operations with many titles to cover.

“Our pilot testing gave us valuable insights into how RADAR content can be integrated into publishers’ workflows.

“We remain in conversation with all those partners to see where we can make RADAR a permanent part of their offering, and for current subscribers, to create more features that add value to the service in our next phase of development.”

PA editor-in-chief Pete Clifton added: “It is heartening to see RADAR’s ground-breaking approach to combining human journalism with automation taking root in the UK media landscape.

“Since the pilot got underway at the end of 2017, we have grown an editorial team of six and seen news outlets use RADAR content in a variety of ways.

“I look forward to seeing RADAR continue to develop as a business for the media, and ultimately beyond the media sector too.”

5 comments

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  • April 9, 2019 at 10:53 am
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    The paper I work at uses RADAR. I can see why they think it was a good idea and some of the stats it spews out are actually very interesting. However, the stories have no local context and no local comments. Hospital stories have a generic DoH comment, education stories have a DfE comment etc. This really infuriates local authorities because they then call us and (rightly) ask why there has been no chance for them to comment or contextualise the story.

    If you use the stats from RADAR output as a starting point for a story which is then researched and written by a local reporter then that’s fine, but just republishing the RADAR version on your website is no good (and we’ve found out readers have very quickly started questioning RADAR content and have stopped clicking on it because it really does feel as though it’s been written by a robot. It’s too generic.)

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  • April 9, 2019 at 12:56 pm
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    Couldn’t agree with you more, Midlander.

    This is watered-down journalism of the worst sort if it just arrives in newsrooms to be cut and pasted as space-filler.
    Sadly, I think that’s exactly where we’re headed.

    Unscrupulous publishers have been dreaming of this development for years and now it’s within their grasp – a newsroom almost entirely free of staff journalists.
    The future business model could well be: free community reporters (courtesy of Facebook) , free local democracy reporters (courtesy of the BBC) and loads of this generic RADAR generated material (cut and paste the name of your local authority/healthtrust/policeforce in this intro), leaving just the odd reporter or two to give the paper a veneer of immediacy and locality.

    How depressing, and how far removed from the lofty and heartfelt ambitions for their papers and communities that so many journalists across the country held as an essential part of the job.

    I’ve seen what’s on the radar and I don’t like it.
    It looks nothing like ‘real’ journalism should do.
    And Midlander is right – like so many other cuts and cutbacks which the boards think are so clever and crafty – the reality is that it won’t go unnoticed, and it won’t be liked.

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  • April 9, 2019 at 3:57 pm
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    I have noticed my local JPI weekly using more and more generic non-local filler because it does not employ enough reporters “on the patch” to generate genuine local news. It is weak instead of having a sharp focus. Sales have plummeted as a result. This is the future for local papers in big groups.
    Over to the hyper-locals…

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  • April 10, 2019 at 9:50 am
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    Actually, I think RADAR is a pretty positive invention. As Midlander says, it does provide some interesting statistics.

    The key though, is how it is used.I’m sure some newsrooms use every piece, in its entirety, without changing a word which is terrible. However, if a selective approach is taken and key stories developed (localised comments, case studies etc), then actually it is a beneficial tool.

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  • April 15, 2019 at 10:36 am
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    If you have got to drum up a local angle on a story it strikes me it isn’t local. I used to dread “getting a local angle” on national stories on a weekly. many moons ago. So contrived.

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