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August 13 2010

10:05

Robots to replace sports journalists?

The BBC College of Journalism reflects on the news that researchers in America have created a computer which can “autonomously” write sports articles based on a set of statistics.

According to an article on the RobotShop blog, the machine, called ‘Stats Monkey”, relies on commonly-used phrases in sports journalism to form its own reports.

It can produce a headline of a particular game in only 2 seconds without spelling or grammar mistakes. Stats Monkey independently looks for websites specialised in match statistics, scores, goals, major events and even photographs. To write its article, the journalist robot uses pre-recorded forms of expressions that often come up.

But – BBC CoJo asks James Porter, the broadcaster’s former head of sports news – does this mean the end for sports journalism? It’s certainly a wake-up call, he says.

In America the way sports is covered and consumed is very statistics driven. Anything a player does is presented to the audiences in the form of statistics. I’m not so sure it’s applicable in the UK (…) It’s a wake up call to us to make sure our journalism concentrates on the stories and the excitement around sport and lifts itself out of the mundanity that otherwise we do sometimes descend into.

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