Google funding 'robot journalism' project to produce 30,000 local news stories per month

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Google is funding a robot journalism project in which five reporters will write up to 30,000 stories per month for local media outlets.

The technology giant has donated £622,000 to publisher the Press Association (PA) for its Data and Robots scheme (Radar) scheme.

The project, which will be launched in 2018, will see five reporters use information from local government databases to automate stories on health, crime and employment among other topics.

Pete Clifton, editor-in-chief at PA, said the robot journalism project would benefit “established media outlets” and independent publishers.

He told the BBC: “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.” 

Mr Clifton added that the scheme would be a “cost effective” way of producing local stories.

Google has been working on the project for the past two years in a bid to help local media survive in the digital age.

But Neil Thurman, a lecturer in communication at City, University of London criticised the scheme, as the profession involves investigating leads and liaising with sources.

He and colleagues produced a study evaluating examples of automated journalism, criticising the stories for below-par writing, though some did say the scheme would be helpful for factual news stories.

Dr Thurman said: “I find it difficult to see how automation is going to help provide additional coverage of local magistrates’ courts and crown courts.

“You can’t really cover [local government] through automation because it’s a lot about investigation, politics, personal relationships, who has said what to whom and so forth – it’s difficult to get that information in data feed form.”

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