- The automated news service launched by PA and Urbs Media has begun a three-month open trial
- Four new journalists have been hired as RADAR scales up production
London, 18 June 2018: More than 1,000 regional news titles now have access to stories jointly produced by journalists and artificial intelligence, as RADAR – the automated news service set up by PA (the Press Association) and Urbs Media – opens its trial to all of the UK’s local newsrooms.
RADAR (Reporters and Data and Robots) enters the second phase of its trial period with the launch of a new website – http://radarai.com/ – through which any regional or hyperlocal news outlet can sign up to receive data-driven stories with local relevance. Following a six-month pilot with a smaller group of newsrooms, the open trial will run for three months, until the end of August 2018, with feedback from customers helping to shape the ongoing development of the service.
RADAR was set up to meet an increasing demand for fact-based news for local communities. It uses bespoke technology and tools for journalists, with Natural Language Generation (NLG) software at its core. When fully launched, the service aims to create tens of thousands of localised stories a month from open data sets.
The service received launch funding in 2017 from Google’s Digital News Initiative (DNI) Innovation Fund – a €150m commitment from the company to stimulate and support innovation in digital journalism across Europe’s news industry.
RADAR’s new website went live with around 4,000 localised versions of a dozen stories sourced by its reporters. The stories spanned a range of topics including stalking offences, vacant homes, pupil absence from schools and opioid prescriptions. In addition to larger publishing groups like Archant, Johnston Press, Newsquest and Reach, independents including Baylis Media and hyperlocals like On the Wight count among RADAR’s earliest open trial partners.
Over the summer months, RADAR’s staff journalists will identify, write and template an average of 15 stories each week from national datasets. Around 250 versions of each story will be generated for a weekly output of close to 4,000 localised pieces of content.
Gary Rogers, Editor-in-Chief of RADAR, said: “The launch of our distribution website is a big step forward for RADAR. It means that we can expand beyond the titles in our pilot phase and provide strong local news stories to any title across the UK. The site is easy to use, and we hope that publishers will find it a valuable asset in helping to serve their local readers.”
Paul Gallagher, Digital Innovations Editor at Reach, said: “We have been running a trial of the RADAR service at a small number of our local titles since Christmas and have now extended this to all Reach regional newsrooms.
“It is very interesting to see how the content has developed and also to see how journalists respond to the idea of using copy generated by AI, or ‘robot’.
“Developing data journalism has been a key part of our strategy at Reach and we are trialling the RADAR service to see if it will provide a new way of finding stories that are important to our audiences.”
More editorial hires
Four data reporters have joined the editorial team at RADAR as the service continues to scale up production:
- Joseph Hook joined from Newsquest’s Swindon Advertiser. He was also a digital sub-editor at The Sunday Times.
- Harriet Clugston was previously a reporter at Reach’s Hertfordshire Mercury and Herts & Essex Observer.
- Miguel Rodriguez comes to RADAR from a local reporting role at Spanish newspaper ‘La Opinion de A Coruña’. He has recently completed an MA in Computational Journalism at Cardiff University.
- They are joined by Izzy Kirk, an NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) trainee.
Pete Clifton, Editor-in-Chief at PA, said, “RADAR is driven by human journalistic talent and I am delighted to see more reporters joining the team and acquiring additional skills as we develop this exciting new way of scaling up our local story production.”