Photo: Robotic news
Wall Street uses robots to take multimillion-dollar decisions in a matter of nanoseconds, NASA to identify meteorites, medicine to find cures for deadly diseases, and now journalism to report the news faster and better.
These “robot reporters,” or algorithms, are sets of rules that allow a computer to engage in activities like Google searches.
And this week they themselves are the news, after the daily Los Angeles Times reported the earthquake in California by means a “robot” preprogrammed to “get to work” when an earthquake strikes.
Journalist Ken Schwencke created this “Quakebot,” an algorithm designed to extract information from the U.S. Geological Survey every time there’s a temblor and then buzz it to a digital platform.
So when the earthquake jolted Schwencke out of bed at 6:25 a.m. on Monday, the news was already written and waiting in the system for an editor to press the button and send it online.
The media have been slow to adopt this technology though it is picking up steam, Chase Davis, assistant editor on the Interactive News Desk of The New York Times, told Efe.
For its part, the Associated Press news agency has developed Overview, and open-source platform financed by the Knight Foundation, which allows navigation through great volumes of documents, such as the WikiLeaks disclosures on the war in Iraq or of U.S. diplomatic cables.
The platform, fed by an intelligent algorithm, enables documents to be organized by topics and subtopics and to be visualized, so journalists can find exactly what they’re looking for.
Davis gives little importance to concern that robotic automation will kill jobs in an industry already in crisis, but rather believes it will mean much more sophisticated news coverage.