investigating the nature of fact in the digital age

I, robot reporter

In Facts and opinion, Journalism practice on March 29, 2014 at 2:22 pm


The BBC reported recently that the LA Times became the first newspaper to use a robot to write an article.

The piece, about an earthquake in California, was a report generated by an automated algorithm that collated data from the US Geological Survey and inserted it into a template.

This is a good development for journalism. Algorithms might be able to pull together information from trusted sources and spit out simple reports. But until it can  understand the context and background of an issue, identify and interview the key voices in a debate, weigh competing claims and tell the difference between fact-based claims and opinion, robo reporting won’t replace journalists. If anything, automated reporting will free journalists to concentrate on producing more long-form quality journalism with deeper, more valuable insights.

In a world awash with information and attitude masquerading as fact, that has to be a good thing.


Robo journalism is not as new as the BBC report suggests. For more on this subject:

The Media Report (ABC Radio National podcast plus transcript)

The Washington Post (opens to video)

Wired  (article)

The Guardian (article plus video)

Slate (article)

Knight Lab (article) (article)


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