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October 18, 2016updated 19 Oct 2016 10:44am

Press Association set to use ‘robot’ reporters across business, sport and elections coverage

By Dominic Ponsford

Press Association is to begin looking at using robot journalists to report some sport and news stories in the next few months.

The national agency’s editor-in-chief Pete Clifton (pictured) made the revelation this morning at the Society of Editors conference in Carlisle in a presentation which outlined how technology is transforming the way PA works.

He said: “This won’t be replacing any of our fantastic journalists, it will be more a case of offering an extra level when it comes to short market reports, election results and football reporting.”

Asked whether robot reporters could be vulnerable to “pranksters”, he said: “We will be taking very small steps in this area.” He said that PA’s counterpart in Denmark was using robot journalism to produce hundreds of market reports a month, and he said: “They are more accurate than when somebody was trying to write too many stories on their own.”

He added: “Will it take over from proper journalists? Of course it won’t. We won’t have a robot going to a big fire or covering a crown court case.”

Clifton said that PA has rolled out social media training for all its journalists and also invested in new equipment, such as ten 360-degree cameras and a drone.

A 360-degree camera was used to give an insight into the Jungle refugee camp in Calais and drone footage from the set of BBC drama Poldark in Cornwall generated 2m views, Clifton said.

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Clifton also gave an insight into the new software tools used by PA journalists:

  • He said that PA journalists used Adobe After Effects to create dynamic graphics for use on videos
  • Tweetdeck is used to monitor lists of Twitter users for newsworthy Tweets in various subject areas
  • They use SAM to search to do geographical searches of social media accounts for eye witness reports
  • Newswhip is used to monitor how PA content is used and shared across digital media.


Clifton said of Newswhip: “Unless we did loads of manual searches we didn’t know what people had used and how. It [Newswhip] is now the focus of our morning and evening meetings to know what things we have done have worked.”

He said that PA’s automated news feeds, which were previously just words and a photograph, can now include embedded video, social media and graphics.

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