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Sep 3 / King Kaufman

How can sportswriters use robot journalism to create better stories?

Nieman Reports has a report on the latest in robot journalism, which we’ve been following around here, in our analog way, for years.

Writer Jonathan Stray begins by talking about software agents that can monitor huge piles of information, such as open data created by modern cities or even countries. A bot can comb through crime reports for unusual trends that are worth coverage, but that a human reporter might not notice. Bots can spot patterns in market data that might reveal insider trading, Stray writes.

But there are also smaller, simpler bots that any journalist can use with no training, such as Google Alerts. Who hasn’t used that?

“We can expect to see much more sophisticated bots make their way into journalism in the next few years,” Stray writes:

This kind of artificial intelligence technology will be developed first for fields such as law, finance, and intelligence where there are large business opportunities. But consider what it could do for journalists. Imagine telling a newsroom AI to watch campaign finance disclosures, SEC filings, and media reports for suspicious business deals that could signal undue political influence. The goal is a system powerful enough to scrutinize every available open data feed, understand what each data point means in context by comparing it to databases of background knowledge and current events, and alert reporters when something looks fishy or interesting.

This kind of data mining is mostly used in sports for trivia, such as when Elias Sports Bureau or Stats LLC reveals that a certain pattern of events that just happened hadn’t happened since 19-dicketty-two. What are some more substantial ways we can put the bots to work for us?