How Reuters is using technology to help find stories
Jonathan Stray of the Columbia Journalism Review writes about how Reuters using technology to help it find and write stories.
Stray writes, “‘This is a speed game, clearly, because that’s what the financial markets are looking for,’ says Reg Chua, executive editor for data and innovation at Reuters. Reuters produced its first automated stories in 2001, publishing computer-generated headlines based on the American Petroleum Institute’s weekly report. That report contains key oil production figures closely watched by energy traders who need new information as fast as possible, certainly faster than their competitors. Automation is a no-brainer when seconds count. Today, the news organization produces automated stories from all kinds of corporate and government data, something like 8,000 automated items a day, in multiple languages.
“Automated systems can report a figure, but they can’t yet say what it means; on their own, computer-generated stories contain no context, no analysis of trends, anomalies, and deeper forces at work. Reuters’s newest technology goes deeper, but with human help: It still writes words, but isn’t meant to publish stories on its own. Reuters’s ‘automation for insights’ system, currently under development, summarizes interesting events in financial data and alerts journalists. Instead of supplying what Chua calls ‘the headline numbers—the index was at this number, up/down from yesterday’s close,’ the machine surfaces ‘more sophisticated analyses, the biggest rise since whenever, that sort of thing.’
“The system could look for changes in analysts’ ratings, unusually good or bad performance compared to other companies in the same industry, or company insiders who have recently sold stock. Rather than being a sentence generator, it’s meant to ‘flag journalists to things that might be of interest to them,’ says Chua, ‘helpfully done in the form of a sentence.'”
Read more here.