When an earthquake hit the Los Angeles area Monday morning at 6:25 AM, the Los Angeles Times had their story published in about three minutes. It was the first media outlet to report on the breaking news. How, you ask?
It used a robot.
Ken Schwencke, a journalist and programmer for the LA Times told Slate on Monday that an algorithm he created called Quakebot was behind the story. It's the latest example of robot journalism, a developing practice that has many news organizations intrigued as it could change the game of breaking news.
Schwencke said that when he was woken by the earthquake Monday morning, he simply got out of bed, opened his computer, and found the robot-generated story already written in the system. All he had to do was click "publish," Slate reported.
The algorithms used by Schwencke and his team are capable of generating news stories on earthquake alerts as well as homicides in the area, and it is then the job of the paper's staff to determine which stories should be developed further. For this reason, Schwencke disagrees with speculation that robo-journalism could replace human writers.
“The way we use it, it’s supplemental," he said. "It saves people a lot of time, and for certain types of stories, it gets the information out there in usually about as good a way as anybody else would. The way I see it is, it doesn’t eliminate anybody’s job as much as it makes everybody’s job more interesting.”
Check out the robot's original report below (via Slate):
A shallow magnitude 4.7 earthquake was reported Monday morning five miles from Westwood, California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 6:25 a.m. Pacific time at a depth of 5.0 miles.
According to the USGS, the epicenter was six miles from Beverly Hills, California, seven miles from Universal City, California, seven miles from Santa Monica, California and 348 miles from Sacramento, California. In the past ten days, there have been no earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and greater centered nearby.
This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author.