Heliograf


Washington Post to Cover Every Major Race on Election Day With Help of Artificial Intelligence

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The Washington Post plans to cover every House, Senate and gubernatorial race in the country on Election Day with the aid of what it describes as artificial intelligence. The plan is to use a data-crunching program called Heliograf, which was built in-house, to bolster efforts by the Post's team of 60 political reporters to provide detailed coverage of nearly 500 contests across the U.S. Reporters will focus their attention on covering high-profile contests and races expected to be close or pivotal, while the program fills in the gaps. "This will give readers Washington Post-quality coverage at all levels but will also be used to alert reporters to things that they may not see, or draw their attention to a particular race that they didn't expect to be a close one," said Jeremy Gilbert, the Post's director of strategic initiatives. For example, a reader from North Carolina will see stories from North Carolina races more prominently placed in the Post's online election live blog.


The Washington Post will use automation to help cover the election

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On Election Day, journalists at The Washington Post will get an assist from their non-human counterparts. The newspaper announced Wednesday morning that it will use automation to cover 500 races. The automation technology, Heliograf, was first used by The Post to cover the Rio Olympics and will be repurposed to provide "up-to-date reporting, analysis and results for nearly 500 races." The Associated Press has relied on natural language generation to cover earnings report stories and sporting events.


Artificial Intelligence and Algorithms -- Friend or Foe to the News?

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A 2015 article from Time magazine revealed that Facebook determines ads and pages users see on their newsfeeds by "injecting a human element." According to The New York Times, Facebook determines political preference based on the pages you like; if people who like the same pages you do have similar political preferences -- even if the pages are not political -- then Facebook automatically categorizes you with the same political preference. By censoring posts with hashtags like #lunch in newsfeeds in favor of more newsworthy or agreeable stories, Facebook actively limits a user's supposed freedom on social media to see things that they might personally value. However, the argument could also be made that AI is useful in the many ways that journalists do statistical data analysis and publicize their findings to viewers.


A Chinese news outlet used an incredibly efficient "robot reporter" to cover the Olympics

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A Chinese robot reporter produced 450 Olympic news items over the 15-day sporting event, mostly about China's dominant sports, like badminton and table tennis. The "AI writing robot" Xiaomingbot (link in Chinese) produced 30 to 40 pieces most days of the Olympics, and on August 14 it published 58 (link in Chinese), according to co-inventor Toutiao news. The most-read was a piece on a Badminton Women's Singles game won by London Olympics sliver medalist Wang Yihan. A post comparing the two writing machines, which was read over 20,000 times on WeChat, criticized (link in Chinese) Heliograf's robotic style while praising Xiaomingbot for its speedy reports, rich content, readability and variable events coverage.


The Washington Post to use AI technology to cover Rio Olympics and US election

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And, The Washington Post is now looking to use the technology to automatically produce hundreds of simple, quick news reports about the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio as well as the upcoming US elections. Announced on 5 August, The Post will join the growing number of media publications utilizing similar technology to expand their news coverage, produce more stories automatically and free up their reporters to do more in-depth pieces. The publication will use an in-house tool called Heliograf that was developed by its engineering team to quickly churn out automatic reports on scores, event schedules, medal counts and other data-centric news for the Rio Games. In July, the Associated Press also announced plans to expand its sports coverage to include Minor League Baseball games by using software from Automated Insights and data from MLB Advanced Media to produce automated stories that its human reporters are not covering.