Sunday, May 09, 2010

Insert Overhyped Headline Here

Can Computers Replace Journalists?

New software developed by computer science and journalism professors at Northwestern University, and licensed and distributed by Narrative Science of Evanston, Ill., may be bad news for some writers. The software can generate news stories from hard data inputs. ”There’s no human author and no human editing,” says Stuart Frankel, Narrative Science’s CEO. “But the stories sound really good.”

So far, the software has been applied primarily to sports statistics, but Frankel sees applications in medicine, crime and finance as well.

To the above, I would add "political journalism".

I mean, how hard would it be to program the following lines of code into the aforementioned computers? This may be the future of political writing in Canada!


OTTAWA - [RANDOMLY SELECT PARTY LEADER] is facing the strongest challenge to his leadership since being named [PARTY] leader [INSERT TIME] ago.

Anonymous [PARTY] insiders report that several prominent party officials have become increasingly vocal in recent days, as frustration over low poll numbers grows. Recent gaffes on [INSERT RANDOM STORY FROM PAST WEEK INVOLVING LEADER] have also caused many to ask if [LEADER'S] leadership will last until the end of the year.

In Ottawa backrooms, [PARTY] members now openly speculate about who the next leader will be, with [LAST TIME'S RUNNER UP] and Frank McKenna being rumoured as the most likely successors.


OTTAWA - Parliament appears headed for a showdown and a likely election over [INSERT ISSUE], as all parties refuse to back down. With Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe almost certain to vote against the legislation, speculation has run rampant about what Michael Ignatieff will do.

Anonymous Liberal [RANDOMIZE - strategists/insiders/MPs/campaign team officials] have quietly made it known that they think this is a [IF LIBERAL POLLING OVER 33% ->
good, OTHERWISE -> bad] time for an election, and they have urged Ignatieff
to [FORCE/AVOID] an election.

Despite a recent surge in [INSERT PARTY WHO WENT UP AT LEAST 1% IN LAST WEEK'S EKOS POLL] polling numbers, even [INSERT SAME PARTY] strategists concede the most likely outcome of an election would be another minority government, and some [INSERT SAME PARTY] MPs have told [INSERT PARTY LEADER] he would be best served by waiting until the [INSERT NEXT SEASON - Fall/Spring] to force an election.

Fuelling the election fever, are reports that [INSERT RANDOM PARTY NOT ALREADY MENTIONED] has already made plans to acquire a campaign plane [REPLACE "plane" WITH "hybrid van" IF GREEN PARTY], and has placed all ridings on high alert, telling them to nominate candidates immediately.

Just rotate the above two stories on a weekly basis, with different names generated each time, and voila - you've got a computer journalist capable of aimlessly speculating with the best of them.


  • Man, you had me laughing out loud ...until I realized everything you said is so true.

    I think the first beta-test should involve replacing Jane Taber with this computer program - the level of her writing should improve significantly. Give it voice software and it could co-host on Question Period too. Might even give Craig Oliver competition?

    By Blogger Tof KW, at 10:08 AM  

  • "and Frank McKenna being rumoured as the most likely successors."

    I love how 'Frank McKenna' wasn't even a variable, but a constant. That's funny stuff!

    By Blogger hatrock, at 11:47 AM  

  • I laughed out loud (at work even) at both the Frank McKenna and the hybrid van lines. Allan Gregg watch out.

    By Blogger evesmother, at 3:06 PM  

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