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Is Software Set to Replace Sports Journalists? (singularityhub.com)
14 points by kkleiner on Nov 11, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 11 comments

Good Lord, I should hope software does replace sports "journalism". Pick up a major city's paper. Read the first section. Then read the sports section. The quality of reporting is so low as to be laughable, but the sports section IS EVEN WORSE.

Don't even get me started about tee vee sportscasters. What a pack of toadying, cliche-spouting ex-fratboys. Feh. The closest these empty suits get to reporting is when they state the scores. After that, they depart Reality Station.

The closest these empty suits get to reporting is when they state the scores.

This strikes me as standing up in the middle of the play and shouting "That so-called Romeo is really Steve! What is this twaddle about Juliet?! Steve isn't even interested in women!" I mean, I sort of get where you are coming from, but I think your understanding of the purpose of the exercise is so at odds to everyone else's that it makes it difficult to engage.

Sports are a form of performance entertainment, and the sports section of the newspaper is an extension of the performance.

I got bored a few lines into the generated article - it reminded me somewhat of a book report a kid might write. There was no drawn-out arc to the story; each sentence or two was correct and complete, but didn't flow that well into the following or previous ones. It was as if there were a bunch of bullet points that were joined together into a "story", which is, I suspect, similar to how it was created.

When I read sports, I want to read passion. If I just want the bare facts about what happened, I'll read the boxscore - which tells me what the details are. For an actual article, I want emotion, I want character, and I want some feel about the game itself.

If you ask me what the largest threat to professional sports journalism is, it's semi-pro local sports blogs. Guys (and it's mostly guys) who write passionately about their local team, and have a depth of knowledge about it that surpasses most general sportswriters. It's similar to comparing writings about small web businesses between SitePoint and 37Signals - in both cases you've got one author that investigated it (but also writes on other things), and one that lives and breathes it. The latter, almost always, will provide a more compelling story.

The sample is pretty good. If I were an ambitious sports journalist, I would use Stats Monkey to generate an initial boilerplate article of a game (drudgery anyway if a computer can do it) and use all the time I saved to do actual in-depth, behind-the-scenes reporting (i.e. my real job).

So perhaps we can combine automation with an investigative human element to more efficiently achieve a better product?

The idea is even more interesting if you apply it to areas that professional journalists might not already cover, like little league or even high school games.

In fact, if I ran a fantasy baseball league I'd be beating down their door. Every league would love to have their own private newspaper adding color to each game and extolling the wisdom of the team managers.

It gives a readable account, but still needs some work. Compare the auto-generated article to ESPN's account: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=291011102

Also, how did the auto-generated article get quotes from players?

You know what, it's not really that much better. It's better, but it's not so much better that I can really tell that one is written by a computer.

If you factor in the costs, time to market, and other factors, I can easily see the automated version winning out in the long run.

I'm sure similar comparisons were made between robots on factory lines and people as well, but the cost differentials really push toward automation. Perhaps robots will write the initial article and then hand it off to a person for the flair.

Really, you can't tell? To me the difference in quality is really far apart. Just look at the first paragraph - which one makes you want to read more?

"Things looked bleak for the Angels when they trailed by two runs in the ninth inning, but Los Angeles recovered thanks to a key single from Vladimir Guerrero to pull out a 7-6 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sunday. Guerrero drove in two Angels runners. He went 2-4 at the plate."


"Torii Hunter emerged from the visitors' clubhouse at Fenway Park to spray champagne over the fans and family gathered there. Erick Aybar did him one better, handing over bottles of bubbly to those who came from California to see the Los Angeles Angels go for the sweep. History gave no reason to hope for such a celebration."

I agree. I don't follow baseball, but I'd imagine there's just as much, if not more, story in the unmeasured events between the plays as there is to be told when they occur.

I do follow pro cycling, however. And even if riders' exact position and biometrics throughout a race were recorded, analyzed, and commented on by such a program, the resulting story could be accurate yet would likely be utterly boring compared to an experienced commentator's narrative of the facts combined with the less quantifiable atmosphere of the course, the conditions, and the crowds.

AI is not known for its abilities in creative writing


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