100 articles – ‘The Robots Are Coming! Oh, They’re Here’

26 April 2011

Written by: Lawrie Zion

The Robots Are Coming! Oh, They’re Here‘  by David Carr

Can a story be written by someone other than a human?

Apparently yes. Sports stories can.

In what’s sure to be music to the ears of sports haters the world over the Intelligent Information Laboratory at Northwestern University in the U.S. has developed a computer program which can write up a sports story on demand.

Like the easy to follow instructions on a bottle of Chicken Tonight one need only throw some stats into a computer, game location, a couple of key players and presto! A sports report.

Good night sportswriters? Thankfully not.

The project in question is called Stats Monkey and arrives at a time when newspapers are as fiscally conservative as ever and need only little encouragement to keep their sportswriters off location.

An example of Stat Monkey’s work appears in David Carr’s New York Times article while the very same example was displayed in a sports writing lecture I attended earlier this year. And truth be told it’s an accurate, factual and somewhat statistical piece concerning a Major League Baseball match in the U.S. In fact it’s perfect, so long as you’re not too bothered by the fact it’s completely bereft of the ingredients which make for great sports writing such as colour, mood, atmosphere and liveliness. To say nothing of character, let alone story.

For those who think this could only happen in sports, well the Stat Monkey boys are apparently working on a similar program for other fields of journalism.

James Rosewarne is a  Master of Global Communications student at La Trobe University.

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