April 9, 2019

AI journalism comes to local news with RADAR commercial launch

By Lucy Ingham

AI journalism is now being used to provide local and hyper local news in the UK, with the commercial rollout of Reporters and Data and Robots (RADAR).

The service, which was initially funded by Google’s Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund in 2017, pairs the work of human journalists with artificial intelligence (AI) to make tailored local news affordable for publishers.

Launched by the UK national news agency PA and journalism startup Urbs Media, RADAR has a team of six journalists that find, write and template newsworthy stories from a host of open datasets, primarily produced by public bodies such as government departments.

The news stories are then run through a custom production system that uses natural language generation technology to localise the stories across 391 different local areas of the UK.

Using AI journalism to localise news

The AI journalism platform has already attracted several subscribers, including regional newspaper publishers Archant and Baylis Media.

The platform produces around 8,000 localised news stories a month, built from approximately 40 different datasets. They are delivered to subscribers with stock images, and in some cases graphics.

“RADAR has evolved from a Google-backed experiment in data journalism to a subscription-based business providing an essential service to local and regional media in the UK,” explained Gary Rogers, editor-in-chief of RADAR.

“Our model makes the service equally accessible to small hyperlocals and larger operations with many titles to cover.”

The AI journalism platform is designed to help sustain local news, an area that has particularly struggled to remain profitable as news platforms move online.

“It is heartening to see RADAR’s ground-breaking approach to combining human journalism with automation taking root in the UK media landscape,” commented Pete Clifton, editor-in-chief of PA.

“Since the pilot got underway at the end of 2017, we have grown an editorial team of six and seen news outlets use RADAR content in a variety of ways.

“I look forward to seeing RADAR continue to develop as a business for the media, and ultimately beyond the media sector too.”

Read more: EU presents “trustworthy” AI ethics guidelines


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