Computer Programs Are Already Being Used to Write Sports News

Posted on September 12, 2011

The weak economy and downward spiral of the newspaper and print magazine industry have been very tough on journalists. Now journalists are facing a new threat from computer generated writing. The New York Times reports that computer programs are already being used to write actual articles.

The New York Times story describes how the software generates sports articles. It combines data from the game with sports concepts, like "individual effort," "come from behind," "season high," and "rout," to generate news reports on individual games.

Here is a short sample:

"WISCONSIN appears to be in the driver's seat en route to a win, as it leads 51-10 after the third quarter. Wisconsin added to its lead when Russell Wilson found Jacob Pedersen for an eight-yard touchdown to make the score 44-3 ..."
The program is owned by a company named Narrative Science. The company's software originated as a project developed by Northwestern University Schools of Engineering and Journalism. Narrative Science says, "Our technology application generates news stories, industry reports, headlines and more - at scale and without human authoring or editing. Narratives can be created from almost any data set, be it numbers or text, structured or unstructured."

Narrative Science already has customers like The Big Ten Network, which uses it to generate news briefs immediately after the end of football and basketball games. Another customer, Builder Online, uses the software to generate reports on local housing markets.

The short news briefs the software generates obviously have significant limitations when it comes to reporting the news. However, the company's co-founder, Kris Hammond, see a Pulitzer Prize in the near future.

Hammond told the Times, "In five years a computer program will win a Pulitzer Prize - and I�ll be damned if it�s not our technology."

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