AP announces it will implement ‘robots’ to report on college sports

The Associated Press will continue to team up with Automated Insights for reporting purposes. Having worked together since 2013, the companies will use AI’s Wordsmith platform to report on various college sports.

“Our Wordsmith platform will be producing articles that wouldn’t exist otherwise,” said James Kotecki, manager of media and public relations at Automated Insights.

AI will be used to cover division I baseball first. Over the next 20 months, other sports, like Division I women’s basketball, Division II and III football and Division II and III men’s basketball will be added to the list.

Automated Insights works by retrieving data, analyzing the data, finding patterns and trends for insights, preparing a narrative and then publishing the findings.

According to a press release from The Associated Press, the coverage will be made possible through an arrangement between the NCAA and AI. The NCAA will provide game statistics while AI’s software reports.

Barry Beldan, the deputy director of sports products for AP, was quoted in the press release as saying, “this new partnership will allow AP to cover more college sports of interest to our members and their audiences.”

The press release also states that AP already uses AI’s technology “to generate more than 3,000 stories about U.S. corporate earnings each quarter.”

Kotecki says that Wordsmith (the natural language generation platform) “is applicable in fields like finance, personal fitness, consumer content, business intelligence, and marketing analytics.”

Despite the convenience and innovative nature of this reporting style, there are some hesitations from the sports industry about relying on technology to do what people usually do.

“Watching a game live gives you a different perspective,” said Eddy Harris, Skyline’s assistant men’s basketball coach.

Harris talked about the human element that these articles may lack.

“Human element adds something to every story,” Harris said.

He added that reading sports articles is part of what he does every day, and that the idea of sports being reported by technology seems a little odd.

“I don’t see how it cannot,” said Harris about the possibility of this type of reporting changing how audiences read sports news.

Automated Insights has provided responses regarding the idea that their technology may replace human elements in writing. In a report provided by Kotecki, it is stated that AI produces content that humans can’t produce on their own. For example, Wordsmith produces personalized articles for fantasy football teams that focus on information that individuals will benefit from reading.

The report also mentions that this technology has the potential to give reporters the time to work on more interesting topics.

“AP’s announcement made clear that our automation would not eliminate jobs, but would ‘free journalists to do more journalism and less data processing,’” according to the report provided by Kotecki.

Nathan Mollat, sports editor at The San Mateo Daily Journal, spoke about what this means for traditional journalism.

“I can’t imagine that it will ever completely replace journalism,” Mollat said.

Mollat spoke about the possible advantages that this technology could offer. It would be convenient and time saving for sports editors if stories about game results and bare-bones articles could be passed on to technology.

However, he does believe that readers want a personal touch for things like interviews and higher level games.

“There’s a lot of opportunity to use it at the lower levels,” Mollat said.

Kotecki said that the production of these articles are “a great thing for the AP, its customers, and the fans of the teams we’ll be covering.”