[Ed. – Lock a computer in with a typewriter long enough…?]
You wouldn’t necessarily know it at first blush. Sure, maybe reading it in the context of thisstory it’s apparent, but otherwise it feels like a pretty standard, if a tad dry, AP news item. The obvious tell doesn’t come until the end of an article: “This story was generated by Automated Insights.” According to AI’s public relations manager James Kotecki, the Wordsmith platform generates millions of articles per week; other partners include Allstate, Comcast, and Yahoo, whose fantasy football reports are automated. Kotecki estimates the company’s system can produce 2,000 articles per second if need be.
Philana Patterson, an assistant business editor at the AP tasked with implementing the system, tells us there was some skepticism from the staff at first. “I wouldn’t expect a good journalist to not be skeptical,” she said. Patterson tells us that when the program first began in July, every automated story had a human touch, with errors logged and sent to Automated Insights to make the necessary tweaks. Full automation began in October, when stories “went out to the wire without human intervention.” Both the AP and Automated Insights tell us that no jobs have been lost due to the new service. We’re also told the automated system is now logging in fewer errors than the human-produced equivalents from years past.