Posted on | May 10, 2012 | 2 Comments
Get ready for robo-reporters. Not in a decade; not in a few years but now.
Steven Levy writes in a recent Wired article that a company that burst forth from the loins of one of the country’s great j-schools, Medill at Northwestern, has a product that creates narrative stories out of data. Narrative Science, for example, will take a pitch-by-pitch, play-by-play summary of a baseball game and turn it into a readable, accurate description of the game.
“Narrative Science’s algorithms built the article using pitch-by-pitch game data that parents entered into an iPhone app called GameChanger. Last year the software produced nearly 400,000 accounts of Little League games. This year that number is expected to top 1.5 million.”
As Levy puts it, Little League games may be the sizzle, but financial reports could be the steak.
So you knew this was coming right? We’ve already waded into the shark-infested swamp with Indian and Pakistani writers churning out news stories for local newspapers about town meetings they couldn’t cover, all by reading the meetings’ minutes online. It hasn’t fared too well, but you see where things are headed.
These technological invasions of our sacred profession seem life-threatening every time they land on Earth. The Internet. Newspapers ignored the threat until it was almost too late, but they’re finally transforming, albeit slowly and less than elegantly. Mobile technology was a huge opportunity for traditional media, and that train may have left the station.
In any case, traditional media is still breathing. Embrace this kind of technology–no matter how counterintuitive it seems–and free your staff to do what they do best: find sources, build relationships and tell compelling, provocative stories.
The more open-minded among the inked-stained wretch set is waking up to the fact that there are a lot of things we shouldn’t be doing any more, and acting like stenographers on our own valuable time is one of them.