Robot reporters will write your local news, thanks to Google

The Press Association is one news outlet benefitting from a cash injection to help journalism survive in a digital age

Google will give the Press Association (PA) a grant of 706,000 (625,000) to finance the RADAR news automation robot as part of its 150 million (132 million)  Digital News Initiative.

The Press Association will use the robot to create 30,000 stories a month for local news outlets, with the help of five human journalists who will gather the data then apply them to templates to produce the news around health, crime, employment, and other local interest stories.

Natural language processing will then re-purpose the stories for other news outlets, without duplicating the articles word-for-word.

"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," the Press Association said in a statement.

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The PA's RADAR project is being run in partnership with Urbs Media, which the PA thinks will be a "genuine game-changer for media outlets across the UK and Ireland." It will launch in early 2018.

"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," PA editor Pete Clifton said.

"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'."

He said that although human journalists are vital to ensure the news stories are factually correct, outsourcing the writing of news stories to a robot will make it faster to circulate the story to as many outlets as possible.

Other outlets benefitting from cash from Google's Digital News Initiative include Al Jazeera, City University, Wikipedia, Dennis Publishing (the publisher of IT Pro) and Fullfact.

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