Sixty years ago, computers were used for the first time to predict the outcome of a presidential race. CBS used the UNIVAC, one of the first commercial computers, on loan. The prediction was spot on, but a decade passed before the computer’s potential was finally realized on election night.
Tagged with “journalism” (17)
Aaron Lammer talks with writer and programmer Paul Ford.
“You don’t really read a newspaper to preserve journalism, or save great journalism, or to keep the newspaper going. You read it because it gives you a sense of power or control over the environment that you’re in, and actually sort of helps you define what your personal territory is, and what the things are that matter for you. As long as products serve that need—as long as books allow you to explore spaces that it’s otherwise really hard for you to explore and so on—I think people will continue to read them.”
Clay Christensen on the news industry: “We didn’t quite understand…how quickly things fall off the cliff”
What’s the right way to respond when technology disrupts the position of an established business? The Harvard Business School professor has lessons for the news business from other industries.
David Carr, who writes the Media Equation column for The New York Times, says that despite cuts, the future of journalism has never looked brighter. "I look at my backpack that is sitting here and it contains more journalistic firepower than the entire newsroom that I walked into 30-40 years ago," he says.
The immense amounts of data collected by local, state and federal government agencies can be an incredibly valuable trove for enterprising journalists. It can also be a pointless slog. Texas Tribune reporter Matt Stiles and Duke University computational journalism professor Sarah Cohen explain how they find good stories in a sea of government data.
A while back, All Things Considered brought you the story of a breakthrough technology: the robot journalist.
Okay, so it’s not really a robot. It’s actually a software program. You feed it data, it processes that data, and it spits out a news story putting those numbers you gave it into context — just like you’d see in your local newspaper.
In the beginning, it was used exclusively for sports stories and a lot of people were skeptical — namely, real-life sports journalists.
"I always imagine kind of the robot you imagined in the third grade with the boxy body and the antenna arms, standing in front of a keyboard," says Emma Carmichael, a writer for the sports website Deadspin.
She and her colleagues at Deadspin took a few digs at the idea, and this spring, when they came across a particularly bad account of a baseball game on the official George Washington University athletics website, GWSports.com, they assumed it was machine-generated.
The University of Virginia’s Will Roberts had pitched a perfect game against George Washington. The story on GWSports.com neglected to mention that fact until the second to last paragraph.
"That was shocking," Carmichael says. "This was the first time this had happened in the NCAA since 2002. And when it happens, you expect to see it in the headline and you expect to see everyone talking about that aspect of the game."
The writer of that story — it turns out — was a living, breathing human being. But the creators of Narrative Science, a news-writing software program, took Deadspin’s assumption as fighting words. They set out to prove that their system could produce a better story.
"We actually got hold of the information director of the school, we got the raw material, the numbers around the story," said Kris Hammond, chief technology officer of Narrative Science. "And we fed it to our system, which wrote the story, where the headline and the lead were focused on the fact that it was a no-hitter. Because how could you write a baseball story and not notice that it was a no hitter? I mean what kind of writer or machine would you be?"
And, here’s the machine-generated copy Narrative Science sent in to Deadspin:
Tuesday was a great day for W. Roberts, as the junior pitcher threw a perfect game to carry Virginia to a 2-0 victory over George Washington at Davenport Field.
Twenty-seven Colonials came to the plate and the Virginia pitcher vanquished them all, pitching a perfect game. He struck out 10 batters while recording his momentous feat. Roberts got Ryan Thomas to ground out for the final out of the game.
Tom Gately came up short on the rubber for the Colonials, recording a loss. He went three innings, walked two, struck out one, and allowed two runs.
The Cavaliers went up for good in the fourth, scoring two runs on a fielder’s choice and a balk.
Deadspin conceded. It published a follow-up saying that — in this case — the machine did write the better story.
"The image of the robots typing wins me over for sure," says Carmichael. "And on top of that, in some cases, as we’ve seen with Narrative Science’s story, they actually can produce the stronger story."
Is it morally correct for the US to pursue prosecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange? Is alleged leaker of military documents Bradley Manning a hero or a traitor? And what do Wikileaks and the Internet mean to the future of journalism? James Moore, the New York Times bestselling author of "Bush’s Brain," is joined by technologist Ben Werdmuller from the UK, the creator of one of the web’s early social networking platforms, and KRLD Dallas radio host Scott Braddock, to discuss "Wikileaks, the Web, and the Long, Strange Journey of Journalism." Moore will lead the panel by arguing that Assange and Manning are heroic figures and ought to be honored in a culture that requires information to sustain a democracy. Werdmuller will offer his insight on the Internet’s long term reach and impact with regard to information, systems, and public access to data that was previously unavailable, and Braddock will articulate the perspective that Assange and Manning have done harm to America and its allies and need to be treated as people who have acted outside of the law. Audience participation and questions will be encouraged.
This week, Managing Editor Stephen Engelberg joins the podcast to give us a preview of ProPublica’s first live event on long-form journalism.
February 25, 2011 Twitter and Facebook have been conduits of information throughout the protests in the Arab world. But that news has been atomized, second by second accounts coming from hundreds of unknown sources. Into that relentless stream has stepped NPR’s Andy Carvin, who’s become a one-stop clearinghouse of news by vetting sources and trying to verify individual tweets. Carvin explains how Twitter’s political utility has also created a new kind of journalism.
The article began by triumphantly listing a series of stunning astronomical breakthroughs that the famous British astronomer, Sir John Herschel, had apparently made "by means of a telescope of vast dimensions and an entirely new principle." Herschel, the article declared, had established a "new theory of cometary phenomena"; he had discovered planets in other solar systems; and he had "solved or corrected nearly every leading problem of mathematical astronomy." Then, almost as if it were an afterthought, the article revealed Herschel’s final, stunning achievement: he had discovered life on the moon!
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