Steve Outing envisions a future of news with automatic fact-checking

SteveOuting.com
Steve Outing recognizes the pitfalls of trying to foresee what news will look like in 20 years, but gives it a shot with 10 predictions. A few:

  • “My news tools will fact-check every news story I read, highlighting mistruths, mistakes, bias, etc., and providing citation links to back up highlighted problem areas in the content. If a news story is analyzed as getting too low of a credibility score, my news assistant will recommend that I skip it.”
  • “Walk down the street, unsuspectingly, toward a crime scene, and you’ll be alerted to reroute, and receive what information is available about the incident, including photos and accounts from eyewitnesses.”
  • With automation handling many things now done manually, reporters “will be freed from mundane tasks and be able to concentrate more of their time on producing ‘enterprise,’ investigative, and feature reporting. And certainly there will be more journalists making a living covering niche topics that today go uncovered.”

Among his other ideas: “What we call “news” today will have a different meaning in 20 years.” Have your own predictions? Post them below.

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  • Anonymous

    ok. so in 1980, what would your predictions of the future been?

  • http://www.steveouting.com Anonymous

    I participated in an academic conference where the organizer asked for folks’ predictions, and I decided to turn my thoughts into a blog item. As an observer and analyst of digital-media trends, I find these kind of exercises fun; and because my job exposes me to a lot of development work and experimentation by technologists working on stuff that will be important in our lives in a few years. My predictions might, I dare say, turn out to be more accurate than from others who don’t follow media-tech developments as closely.

    I used the word “absurd” only to reference the request to look 20 years out. Looking 5 years out, I’d be a bit more confident that some of my predictions might turn out to be correct. “Meaningless”? Try telling that to the people at Google’s secret lab who are working on technologies — and thus making long-range predictions of what our future digital life will be like — that will impact our lives a decade or more from now. I don’t call myself a futurist, but I think there’s value in the work that the real futurists do.

    Steve Outing
    Digital News Test Kitchen
    University of Colorado Boulder

  • Anonymous

    why even take on such an admittedly “absurd task”? it is a meaningless exercise now and doubtless will be in the future.

  • http://www.steveouting.com Anonymous

    Tracy: Actually, I based that prediction on a start-up that we’re doing a bit of research collaboration with: HowTru. … The system it’s building is a combination of human and algorithmic analysis to determine veracity of news content, but I wouldn’t call what they’re attempting to do as finding “the truth.” If HowTru succeeds I can’t predict, but even if not then others will follow and someone will give us a system that improves on what we have now: Many of us read a story (and assume that it’s accurate) if it’s got lots of Likes and RTs. Of course, something completely false or that has a glaring factual error could do fabulously well if it’s getting read based purely on high “social reputation.” Given the (admittedly absurd) task of looking out 20 years, I’ve got to believe that technologists blending technology and the wisdom of the crowd will make significant progress toward identifying veracity, credibility, or whatever you wish to call it. “The Truth”? Not likely. If you’re interested, here’s HowTru’s founder being interviewed at a recent event at the University of Nevada Reno: http://goo.gl/9enAs

  • http://www.steveouting.com Anonymous

    Tracy: Actually, I based that prediction on a start-up that we’re doing a bit of research collaboration with: HowTru. … The system it’s building is a combination of human and algorithmic analysis to determine veracity of news content, but I wouldn’t call what they’re attempting to do as finding “the truth.” If HowTru succeeds I can’t predict, but even if not then others will follow and someone will give us a system that improves on what we have now: Many of us read a story (and assume that it’s accurate) if it’s got lots of Likes and RTs. Of course, something completely false or that has a glaring factual error could do fabulously well if it’s getting read based purely on high “social reputation.” Given the (admittedly absurd) task of looking out 20 years, I’ve got to believe that technologists blending technology and the wisdom of the crowd will make significant progress toward identifying veracity, credibility, or whatever you wish to call it. “The Truth”? Not likely. If you’re interested, here’s HowTru’s founder being interviewed at a recent event at the University of Nevada Reno: http://goo.gl/9enAs

  • http://twitter.com/westseattleblog West Seattle Blog

    Fact-check it against what? What will be weighted to be declared “the truth”? Who will control that? It still ultimately comes down to people. People curating, people reporting. Best way to enable fact-checking is to link, link, link, and I don’t mean link to other news organizations – I mean link to direct sources. Even then, however, who knows what spin they put on the facts they put out? You say they have a great reputation? Says who? Checked by whom? … Always fun to play futurist but Lord, it’s wearisome to hear another round of suggestions that automation will set us free, when we can’t even get automated aggregation right. (Last night I tweeted that a story of ours wound up on a Texas local-news site, labeled as California news, with absolutely no reason for either …) – Tracy