The Press Association in Britain has accepted €706,000 from Google to develop a robot local reporting project. (PA is the British equivalent of the Canadian Press wire service.) The grant will fund Reporters and Data and Robots (RADAR) starting in early 2018 as part of Google's €150m three-year Digital News Initiative. PA said in a statement:
“RADAR is intended to meet the increasing demand for consistent, fact-based insights into local communities, for the benefit of established regional media outlets, as well as the growing sector of independent publishers, hyperlocal outlets and bloggers.”
A team of five journalists working on project will use open government and local authority databases, and story templates, to create automatic stories about health, crime, employment and other subjects.“Natural Language Generation” software will be used to produce multiple versions of stories, to “scale up the mass localisation of news content”.PA Editor Pete Clifton said
“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. We have already provided an outline of our plans to some of our regional customers, and they have been universally positive. One described it as ‘genius’.
“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.”