Artificial intelligence, theathletic.com produce stories
Today, sport fans face an ever-expanding buffet of information sources while searching for specific news, including regional teams or national squads.
Such information might be provided by artificial intelligence (AI) or a service like Athletic, which relies on top human writers.
News-savvy outlets know that tailoring with the use of AI and cookies can provide us with tantalizing links to stories we might enjoy.
To meet this demand, Robo journalism (or algorithmic journalism) automatically generates stories with the use of computer programs using AI stories, which don’t rely on human reporters.
AI is everywhere in tech right now, from choosing a cable channel or station on our television to use in health care, astronomy (sifting through millions of images to find planets, black holes and other anomalies) and improving photos from our phones.
Websites such as Gamechanger (gc.com) already generate acceptable stories relying on statistics entered after baseball or softball games.
Heck, I rely on the site (which I pay for) to get statistics to which I wouldn’t have access to any other way. I use those stats much like the AI at gc.com does for a “recap story.”
I’d like to think my story would be more insightful and flow better than a gc.com story that relies on set sentence rules and structure.
For instance, here are a couple of the four sentences generated by gc.com for the Columbia Basin River Dogs (actually Riverdogs) in beating Glacier to claim a regional title and trip to the 13-15 Babe Ruth World Series this week in Bismarck, N.D.
“Columbia Basin River Dogs 15U blew out 2019 Glacier 15U 7-1 on Saturday.
“Columbia Basin River Dogs 15U got things moving in the first inning. Cooper Correia's sac fly scored one run for Columbia Basin River Dogs 15U.
“Tyson Nicholson led things off on the pitcher's mound for Columbia Basin River Dogs 15U. He surrendered one run on one hit over four innings, striking out four.”
I used the same statistics in our July 31 issue to write:
“Cooper Correia of Almira/Coulee-Hartline and Tyson Nicholson of Lake Roosevelt High School are heading to the Babe Ruth World Series in Bismarck, N.D., that starts Aug. 8.
“The players, who will be sophomores this fall, are playing for the Columbia Basin U15 Riverdogs (11-1), which won a regional tournament here July 22-27.”
For statistics I wrote:
“Nicholson got the win, pitching four innings while striking out four, walking three and giving up only one hit and no earned runs.
“At the plate, Nicholson was 1-2 with a double.
“Correia punched out a sacrifice fly for an RBI.”
Let’s face it, as revenue at newspaper diminishes, owners must find a way to balance the bottom line.
Reporters cost money – salaries, health care and travel.
There’s not much overhead with AI other than updating each version.
Many people may not have heard of theathletic.com, which is relying on subscriptions and not ads for its revenue (some think this business model will not last or work).
The idea is that not only will people pay for such a service, they will do almost anything to read about teams they love.
Theathletic.com in three years has become one of the biggest sports publications in the country, which hardly anyone has heard of.
The business model includes newspapers being akin to a farm system from which theathletic.com can poach big name writers, who bring their experience and contacts to the website.
A recent story checked stories published by thearthletic.com and found similar stories published in papers.
So while these elite sports journalists continue to churn out the same stories as they did for newspapers while being paid well, this startup net site apparently does not hire new voices.
The way things are going, I guess if you are a new writer you have to work your way up the newspaper chain before being offered a lucrative contract with theathletic.com.
No matter what, major sports will be covered by someone, one way or another.
Major newspapers may have to rely more and more on AI stories to make ends meet.
But I still think there is a huge need for small-town newspapers to cover hometown news and sports.
Al Camp is the sports editor at The Chronicle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.