From a sportswriter’s notebook — robots taking over!


(stock photo)
(stock photo)

We recently found this Associated Press (AP) post-game story:

“STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Dylan Tice was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded with one out in the 11th inning, giving the State College Spikes a 9-8 victory over the Brooklyn Cyclones…”

This is part of AP’s new minor league baseball coverage, but with a catch — “automated stories generated by algorithms.” The story was written not from an in-person human account, but by a computer using Automated Insights, a North Carolina-based firm “that uses artificial intelligence (A.I.) to analyze big data and transform it into stories,” wrote Paul Sawers for Venture

In other words, it’s Hal the computer from the movie 2001 who’s now covering sports as opposed to flying spaceships.

Sawers continues on AP’s use of Automated Insights: “It can instead generate countless stories and articles in the time it would take a person to write just one.” He quoted CEO Robbie Allen: “The Associated Press proved the value of automated journalism…to cover types of news that simply couldn’t be done without automation.”

We must now as a result ask whenever reading a game account, “Is it human, or is it good ol’ A.I.?” Machine-written articles, which also are now used by other industries, “are here to stay,” says Sawers.

I’m afraid I saw this coming for some time now in unimaginative beat writers who no longer compete for solid storylines but rather chum it up like Lucy and Ethel, filing virtually identical post-game accounts with team-supplied quotes. Given the diminishing numbers of Blacks and other people of color employed in sports media both locally and nationally, especially in print journalism, the AP’s use of computer-generated stories is a concern no matter their insistence “that this is about expanding coverage rather than replacing existing staff,” in Sawers’ words.

Automated journalism? It’s just a matter of time before A.I., A.J., or whatever they call it reaches the major leagues. We all know that when it comes to economics, Blacks and people of color historically are causalities in such matters.

What’s cheaper, machine oil or the wages, health benefits, and other human protections that a media company would be responsible for if hiring humans? A computer doing the job of many — what a concept!

Now we have impersonal machines along with Whites to compete with for the few media jobs out there these days. Rather, this is “Danger, Danger” as the old robot in Lost In Space would frantically say to warn the Robinsons that something was amiss.

This isn’t Chicken Little talk but a stone cold reality.


Baseball, July 4 fireworks…and no Black folk

Scarborough Sports Marketing’s latest research found that 23 percent of Generation Y (age 18-29) baseball fans are more likely to be Black. However, we didn’t find this to be the case when we took in our own baseball doubleheader on America’s birthday. We caught the Twins in the early afternoon, then hopped on the Green Line for downtown St. Paul and took in the St. Paul Saints that evening.

Our diversity sweep through two stadiums that day found only a handful of Blacks watching the games, and they didn’t look like Gen Y’ers.

“The only Blacks [that] are here are workers,” declared Mr. B., who’s in his second year with his barber chair cutting hair at the St. Paul ballpark. His regular shop is in the same Lowertown neighborhood where the second-year park is located.

“I don’t think Blacks are as interested in baseball as they are in football and basketball,” he opined.


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