AI Tool Lynx Insight And The Cybernetic Newsroom

An artificial intelligence tool called Lynx Insight has been put together by Reuters, the international news service, as an aid to journalists. And more.

Called Lynx Insight, it has been trialled by dozens of journalists since the summer, and will now be rolled out across Reuters newsrooms. Reg Chua, executive editor of editorial operations, data and innovation at Reuters, says the aim is to divvy up editorial work into what machines do best (such as chew through data and spot patterns), and what human editorial staff excel at (such as asking questions, judging importance, understanding context and — presumably — drinking excessive amounts of coffee).

That differs from previous editorial tech efforts that sought to train AI to write entire stories, such as snippets about local sports teams or earthquake warnings. Reuters already tried that with financial stories, and that work has "informed" the new aim to build a "cybernetic newsroom", rather than a fully automated one, says Chua. "The real value is using machines to do what they're good at and then presenting that to humans — that's the best of both worlds."

The system will churn through massive datasets, looking for anything interesting: a fast moving stock price, intriguing changes in a market, or subtler patterns. Journalists are handed that information however they choose — in an email, messenger service, or via their data terminals when they sit down for a shift — alongside key context and background to help jumpstart their research if they think the story is worth pursuing. They can also enter a particular company into the system to get a quick overview, handy for background research and interview preparation.

(Via Wired UK)

No doubt, corporate Reuters is enthused about the idea:

There has been a lot of talk about the future of journalism being robotic. At Reuters, we beg to differ. We think it’s cybernetic.

And so it is with machines and humans, and news. In newsrooms, machines do some things very well – they analyze and sift through data tirelessly, and at speed and on demand. Humans, on the other hand, are good at asking the right questions, bringing news judgment to bear, and understanding context. Or to put it the opposite way – and very generally – machines write bad stories and journalists struggle with mounds of data.

So that’s why Reuters is building a “cybernetic newsroom” – marrying the best of machine capability and human judgment to drive better journalism, rather than asking one to be a second-rate version of the other.

As the latest stage in this journey, we’re developing an in-house tool called Lynx Insight that can augment human journalism by identifying trends, anomalies, key facts and suggesting new stories reporters should write. The platform uses automated data-sifting on a vast scale, alongside algorithms programmed by Reuters journalists, to go beyond simple rote reporting into proactively offering fresh, data-driven angles that our staff can pursue.

(Via Reuters.)

I'm always interested when I read how great corporations of the day are building their successors, in this case, the homeostatic newspapers of Philip K. Dick's prophetic 1963 short story If There Were No Benny Cemoli:

"The structure," the minor CURBman said, "was once a great homeostatic newspaper, the New York Times. It printed itself directly below us... We haven't located the newspaper yet; it was customary for the homeopapes to be buried a mile or so down..."

"...the entire network of newspaper communication and news-creation has been idle since [the Misadventure]...

Early the next morning the report from the corps of engineers reached Hood in his temporary office. The power supply of the newspaper had been totally destroyed. But the cephalon, the governing brain structure which guided and oriented the homeostatic system, appeared to be intact...

I'd also point out that Phil Dick predicted the eventual robotic nature of journalism, specifically in his 1965 novel The Zap Gun; see this article on the autonomic interviewer. Are there robotic journalists in real life? See Robot Journalist Provides Autonomic News Coverage.

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