What once sounded like a Hollywood sci-fi movie is now a reality: news-reporting via Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Google awarded $800,000 on July 6 to the United Kingdom’s Press Association,. The money will be used to develop robot reporters that can write up to 30,000 articles per month for local news outlets and bloggers.
According to Lucy A. Dalglish, who serves as a dean at the University of Maryland journalism school, robots have been infiltrating newsrooms across the globe over the past decade.
In fact, last year China used a robo-journalist called ‘Xiaomingbot’ to write hundreds of stories covering the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Other media outlets that use artificial intelligence to create stories include USA Today, Reuters, Buzzfeed, and the Associated Press.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos also developed an AI program called Heliograf, after acquiring the Washington Post in 2013.
Editors at the Post’s establish “narrative templates” for their stories and then use Heliograf to access the data clearinghouse VoteSmart.org to collect voter data for election stories.
The Heliograf software then matches the relevant data with the editors’ pre-written templates for each race, and merges the two together for the first published version of an election story. The bots then automatically update the published stories with updated election returns. But reporters still add analysis and a more specific narrative to the important races.
The Post is currently discussing plans to use Heliograf to create specialized stories that appeal to a wider range of niche audiences, says the report.
While robots may be cheaper and faster for news companies, they are not above making embarrassing mistakes.
The Los Angeles Times made headlines last month after it surfaced that its Quakebot falsely reported a 6.8 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Santa Barbara – proving that humans aren’t the only ones capable of crafting a fake news story.
Shortly after the discovery, editors removed the tweet and updated the article to explain that while the earthquake did, in fact, occur, it was back in 1925 – 92 years ago.
Please note: We just deleted an automated tweet saying there was a 6.8 earthquake in Isla Vista. That earthquake happened in 1925.
— L.A. Times: L.A. Now (@LANow) June 22, 2017
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