The winners of the 2020 Online Journalism Awards have been announced and one, in particular, stands out. Sophi Automation, an artificial intelligence website editor, has scooped the Technical Innovation in the Service of Digital Journalism award, proving that there are very few industries where AI won’t be having an impact.
Sophi is used by the digital properties belonging to Canada’s national newspaper The Globe and Mail. It is responsible for curating 99% of published content, examining how each piece is likely to contribute to subscriber numbers and advertising revenue.
Before it is able to get to work, Sophi is first trained by the editorial team at The Globe and Mail to understand what stories are relevant and where they should reside. After a number of parameters have been set, it can start crafting stories without any additional input.
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“We had to build a system that our newsroom could easily grasp so that they would train and trust the algorithm,” the project’s award page reads. “Sophi was built in close collaboration with our newsroom, which tested it and provided constant feedback on it through a Slack channel and regular meetings. The newsroom still works with a version of Sophi as a decision-support analytics tool, because editors still curate the top three story packages on our home page and business page. They also have the capability to override autonomous decisions that Sophi makes.”
Rather than replacing journalists, the aim is for Sophi to free them up to explore more ambitious stories. While artificial intelligence is great for churning out more simplistic pieces, more in-depth reporting still requires human input. However, who knows how long it will be before AI can take on these types of stories too.
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