Lou Ferrara, vice president and managing editor of The Associated Press, has been a champion of automation at the newswire.

How The Associated Press is using automation to rethink the way it does news

Lou Ferrara, vice president and managing editor of The Associated Press, has been a champion of automation at the newswire.

Lou Ferrara, vice president and managing editor of The Associated Press, has been a champion of automation at the newswire.

When The Associated Press announced last year it was using software to write investment stories, the news was greeted with a mixture of wonderment and hand-wringing from journalists who feared that automation would affect the quality of coverage or lead to layoffs at the news cooperative.

So far, those fears have proved to be unfounded. Over the next few months, the AP drastically increased the output of the writeups and announced it was making moves to automate its coverage of NCAA sports. It also announced the hiring of its first automation editor, Justin Myers.

The man at the center of this push is Lou Ferrara, AP’s vice president and managing editor, who has championed automation as a powerful tool for saving its global newsroom time and money. Read more


Reuters says it isn’t gunning for the competition by offering free content

On Tuesday, Reuters announced it was going to begin giving away content to publishers on a scale never before seen in the news agency’s more than 160-year history.

It too early to tell what the policy will mean for the newswire’s rivals, like The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Getty. But in an email question-and-answer session with Poynter, Reuters Global Managing Director Steven Schwartz writes that the company’s new initiative wasn’t driven by the competition:

From a strategic standpoint, what does this loss-leader approach mean for your competitors, like The Associated Press and AFP?

We have always prided ourselves on innovation and what we are doing acknowledges that the market is changing, as are some of our other initiatives like custom programming for broadcasters and content creation for brands. Read more


Resistance is futile: AP to use computers to cover college baseball games

Graphic by Deposit Photo

Graphic by Deposit Photo

On the surface, this lede hardly is memorable:

“North Carolina grabbed the lead in the top of the 10th inning as a wild pitch by Clark Labitan allowed Colin Moran to score the go-ahead run. The Tar Heels held on to defeat Virginia Tech 9-8.”

Jim Murray, it is not, but dig a bit deeper and the significance of this lede comes into clear focus. It wasn’t written by a reporter who covered a game. Instead, it was composed by a computer.

Later this month, the Associated Press will be churning out similar computer-generated ledes and stories on college baseball in a new deal with the NCAA. The pact calls for AP to employ “automation technology” to cover college sports beyond big-time football and basketball, including those at the Division II and III level, that traditionally don’t receive coverage. Read more


AP staffer among those killed in Amtrak derailment

Amtrak Crash
The Associated Press | The New York Times

Jim Gaines, a video software architect for The Associated Press, died after an Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia that killed at least six people and injured more than 200.

The AP reports that Gaines is a father of two who was on his way back home after attending meetings in Washington, D.C. According to the AP, his work was recognized by the news cooperative multiple times.

Gaines joined the AP in 1998 and was a key factor in nearly all of the news agency’s video initiatives, including a service providing live video to hundreds of clients worldwide.

Gaines won AP’s “Geek of the Month” award in May 2012 for his “tireless dedication and contagious passion” to technological innovation.

Read more

As Sunshine Week dawns, journalists, advocates, call for transparency

Sunshine Week, an annual initiative promoting government transparency, starts Sunday. To mark the occasion, several journalists and media organizations have taken public stands in favor of better open records laws and more transparent government.

Gary Pruitt, CEO of The Associated Press
Pruitt released a statement Friday that condemned the government’s lackadaisical responses to The AP’s Freedom of Information Act requests, citing its recent lawsuit against Hillary Clinton.

Despite head-pounding frustrations in using them, the Freedom of Information Act and state open records laws are powerful reporting tools. But it’s important to remember that they don’t exist just for journalists. They are there for everyone.

Massachusetts newspapers
The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, the The Patriot Ledger and Gatehouse Media papers in Massachusetts have all agreed to publish coordinated editorials in condemnation of a recent ruling by Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin that allowed Boston police to withhold the names of police officers who were driving drunk, said Ellen Clegg, interim editorial page editor at The Boston Globe. Read more


AP will use software to write NCAA game stories

Automated Insights, a company that provides language generation software to The Associated Press and other organizations, announced Wednesday the news cooperative will use the software to produce thousands of stories about collegiate sports.

The Associated Press will begin publishing automatically generated sports stories this spring, beginning with Division I baseball, according to a press release.

This new partnership will allow AP to cover more college sports of interest to our members and their audiences,” said Barry Bedlan, AP’s deputy director of sports products. “This will mean thousands of more stories on the AP wire, which will remain unmatched in the industry. Every college sports town will have some level of coverage.

The Associated Press has been using Automated Insights software to generate earnings reports stories since July. Read more


Robot-writing increased AP’s earnings stories by tenfold

Since The Associated Press adopted automation technology to write its earnings reports, the news cooperative has generated 3,000 stories per quarter, ten times its previous output, according to a press release from Automated Insights, the company behind the automation. Those stories also contained “far fewer errors” than stories written by actual journalists.

The Associated Press began publishing earnings reports using automation technology in July for companies including Hasbro Inc., Honeywell International Inc. and GE. Appended to those stories is a note that reads “This story was generated automatically by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Full GE report: http://www.zacks.com/ap/GE.”

The stories include descriptions of each business and contain “forward-looking guidance provided by the companies,” according to the release.

AP managing editor Lou Ferrara told Automated Insights that the news cooperative’s customers are happy to be receiving more stories, and that automation has freed up reporters to work on more difficult stories, according to the release. Read more

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Why NPR didn’t publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons

NPR | The Two-Way

NPR decided not to publish controversial cartoons from satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo because “posting just a few of the cover images” of the Prophet Muhammad “could be misleading,” standards editor Mark Memmott wrote Monday.

Publishing a few magazine covers, Memmott writes, might give readers the impression the magazine is “only a bit edgier” than similar publications. But a more thorough examination of the cartoons would violate “most news organizations’ standards regarding offensive material.”

At NPR, the policy on “potentially offensive language” applies to the images posted online as well. It begins by stating that “as a responsible broadcaster, NPR has always set a high bar on use of language that may be offensive to our audience.

In the aftermath of the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, news organizations have been divided over whether to publish cartoons from the magazines depicting Muhammad, whose likeness is sacrosanct among Muslims. Read more


Reuters loses Tribune but is not quitting yet

General view of a Reuters building at Canary Wharf in London, Tuesday, May 15, 2007. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

General view of a Reuters building at Canary Wharf in London, Tuesday, May 15, 2007. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)

Reuters attempts to build a competitive wire service to the Associated Press suffered a major setback over the holidays when the Chicago Tribune and six sister papers ended a two-year relationship and switched back to the AP.

That was a double sting. Besides being Reuters’ biggest and most prominent client, Chicago Tribune editor Gerould Kern had spent several years helping build out the substitute service before it formally launched (as I recounted in a detailed story last summer),

But Steven Schwartz, global managing director of the Reuters news agency, told me in an e-mail interview that he is not throwing in the towel. He wrote:

We are grateful for all of the Tribune’s insight and input in the early days to help make the Reuters America service exceptionally strong and we expect they will be back as a customer sometime down the road.

Read more

Career Beat: Conn Carroll named White House correspondent for Townhall

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Conn Carroll will be White House correspondent for Townhall. He has previously worked at National Journal. (Politico)
  • Jack Shafer will be a columnist and reporter for Politico. Previously, he was press critic for Reuters. (Poynter)
  • Hugo Sánchez will be a soccer analyst for ESPN Deportes. Previously, he was a guest analyst there. (Media Moves)
  • Erika Maldonado will be an anchor at Univision Chicago. Previously, she was a general assignment reporter there. (Robert Feder)
  • Laura Zelenko will be interim senior executive editor for beat reporting at Bloomberg News. Previously, she was executive editor for markets there. (Poynter)
  • Susan Montoya Bryan will be New Mexico correspondent for The Associated Press.
Read more
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