As journalists face increased layoffs despite the growing appetite for up-to-the-minute, timely news, a new trend has quietly been disrupting the news industry.
Enter the automated reporter.
News organizations are increasingly turning toward artificial intelligence (AI) for production, using a variety of new automated systems to pump out content with minimal need for direct human input.
According to a report by the New York Times, Bloomberg News relies on a system called Cyborg to produce about a third of its articles.
Most of Cyborg’s output takes the form of company earnings reports that are rife with percentage, charts, and other financial data that can be crunched down into a news story quickly and accurately.
But Bloomberg isn’t alone. Increasingly, major news agency like Reuters and Associated Press, along with a number of newspapers such as Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, are using algorithms to crunch out news on everything from local minor league sports games to earthquakes.
Even Patch, which publishes local news nationwide, relies on AI to draft anywhere between 5 to ten percent of its stories for the 800 communities that it serves.
Last year, the Washington Post took first place in the category of “Excellence in Use of Bots” at the Global BIGGIES Awards for its use of Heliograf, a robot reporter that was used in the Post’s coverage of the 2016 Olympic Summer Games and that year’s election. The judges hailed Heliograf’s work for the Post, noting that its “set of examples and explanations are eloquently written and backed. The results also seem quite promising. Very impressive.”
News industry executives claim that while the use of automated, labor-saving technology may cut the journalist out of the production process, it also helps free their hands and their minds for tasks that demand the analytical, emotional, and creative talents of a human reporter.
Indeed, for many journalists, reporting the banal details of sports games or financial reports is a tiresome, monotonous task that takes up bandwidth and spares little room to flex talent like they would on more in-depth, analytical writing.
Lisa Gibbs, a news partnership director for AP, told the Times:
“The work of journalism is creative, it’s about curiosity, it’s about storytelling, it’s about digging and holding governments accountable, it’s critical thinking, it’s judgment — and that is where we want our journalists spending their energy.”
Nick Evershed, a data and interactives editor for The Guardian Australia who created the company’s own system called ReporterMate, offered similar reasoning, explaining:
“Journalists would prefer to be spending time on deeper, more meaningful investigations, such as why the climate is changing, and how does it affect people? Or which politicians are abusing the expenses system?”
The use of AI has long been a part of the reporter’s toolkit in terms of speeding up production, whether it comes in the form of AP Stylebook compliance software, spellchecking and grammar apps, or even transcription and translation software.
But many fear the danger that increased automation can pose not only to quality journalism and human journalists, but to job markets in general.
A study from the University of Oxford found that 47 percent of U.S. jobs are at risk of falling prey to technological unemployment due to the rapidly-developing automation of various vocations, especially those jobs “mainly consisting of tasks following well-defined procedures that can easily be performed by sophisticated algorithms.”
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.