Media Moves

Humans vs. robots in business journalism: Score one for the humans

October 19, 2016

Posted by Chris Roush

DOTTweetThere’s been a lot of discussion in business journalism recently about how computers and software are writing stories at a faster pace than reporters.

For example, the Associated Press is using Automated Insights software to write thousands of earnings stories every semester.

And this week, Money.net said it would hire journalists to help its computers. In a story in the New York Times, reporter Nathaniel Popper wrote that Money.net would create “machine-generated news bulletins and stories. He will be hiring journalists to help guide the computers and potentially supplement them with reporting — part of a broader move toward the automation of journalism.”

Yet in some important cases, human reporters are still beating the computers.

For example, the Department of Transportation issued an emergency order last Friday, Oct. 14, banning all Samsung Galaxy 7 phones from air transportation in the United States.

But the human reporters beat the robots in this case by more than an hour, underscoring that you need a good mix of humans and computers to do great journalistic work to break news.

On Oct. 14, Bloomberg reporters Mary Schlangenstein and Alan Levin first broke the news at 2:44 p.m. that the U.S. was planning to ban all Samsung Note 7 phones on airline flights.

More than an hour later at 3:50 p.m., the Department of Transportation published its press release, which is when Money.net would have first published a story using machines.

Here are the time stamps:

2:44:40 EDT: Bloomberg’s first headline moves

U.S. SAID TO BAN ALL SAMSUNG NOTE 7 PHONES ON AIRLINE FLIGHTS

 

2:47:30 EDT: Bloomberg’s first story moves by Bloomberg aviation reporters

Samsung Note 7 Phones Said to Be Banned on U.S. Airline Flights

 

3:21 EDT: Reuters runs a headline based on Bloomberg’s report

BRIEF-U.S. aviation regulators will unveil new restrictions banning Samsung Note 7 phones on flights – Bloomberg

 

3:50 EDT: U.S. Dept of Transportation press release issued/Tweet issued:

BREAKING: @USDOT bans all Samsung Galaxy Note7 phones from airplanes

 

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