Google grants UK news agency $805,000 to automate writing local news

San Francisco/London, July 8 (IANS) In what could put automation in full swing in the field of journalism, Google is providing Press Association, the British news agency, $805,000 to build a software that will gather, automate and write nearly 30,000 local stories a month.

Dubbed as ‘Radar’ (Reporters And Data And Robots), the software project will “automate local reporting with large public databases from government agencies or local law enforcement,” Re/Code reported late on Friday.

‘Radar’ will see journalists identifying national open databases from government departments, local authorities, NHS Trusts and more, and creating detailed story templates across a range of topics including crime, health and employment.

The software project, scheduled for launch in early 2018, will hire five journalists who will help identify datasets, curate and edit news articles generated from Radar.

The Natural Language Generation (NLG) software will be applied to produce multiple versions of stories, to scale up the mass localisation of news content.

“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,” said Peter Clifton, editor-in-chief of the Press Association, in a statement.

The project also aims to develop capabilities to auto-generate graphics and video to add to text-based stories as well as related pictures.

The funds come from Google’s Digital News Initiative (DNI) that aims to invest more than $170 million to support digital innovation in newsrooms across Europe.

Urbs Media, an automation software startup, has joined the Press Association to work on ‘Radar’ that would provide up to 30,000 data-driven stories each month for hundreds of local media outlets.

“At a time when many media outlets are experiencing commercial pressures, ‘Radar’ will provide the news ecosystem with a cost-effective way to provide incisive local stories, enabling audiences to hold democratic bodies to account,” Clifton noted.

The Press Association and Urbs Media are developing an end-to-end work flow to generate this large volume of news for local publishers across the UK and Ireland.

In addition to scaling up the core story writing process, the grant from Google will support the creation of database tools to collect and combine different data sets, with editorial intelligence guiding the automation process.

The Press Association’s distribution platforms will also be enhanced to make sure that all local outlets can find and use the large volume of localised news stories.

–IANS

na/ksk

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