The Los Angeles Times was the first newspaper to publish a story about an earthquake on Monday – thanks to a robot writer…Journalist and programmer Ken Schwencke created an algorithm that automatically generates a short article when an earthquake occurs.
Mr Schwencke told Slate magazine that it took around three minutes for the story to appear online.
The LA Times is a pioneer in the technology which draws on trusted sources – such as the US Geological Survey – and places data into a pre-written template.
As well as the earthquake report, it also uses another algorithm to generate stories about crime in the city – with human editors deciding which ones need greater attention.
Other news organisations have experimented with algorithm-based reporting methods in other areas, particularly sports.
The generated story does not replace the journalist, Mr Schwencke argued, but instead allows available data to be quickly gathered and disseminated.
“It’s supplemental,” he told the magazine.
“It saves people a lot of time, and for certain types of stories, it gets the information out there in usually about as good a way as anybody else would.
Maybe so. It’s as elemental as the sparse data served up by some wire services. At worst, probably not as useless as the crap offered up by so-called local TV. Which is generally the property of some amorphous conglomerate hundreds of miles away with no “local” ownership.
At its best, this could be as useful as an up-to-the-minute neighborhood weather report. Especially if there actually is a follow-up article written by a sentient being.