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You had the chance to talk to them, get to know them and really get to feel them.
This is the ancient distinction between reporters and columnists, isn't it? And since we're in a century where reporting has become omnipresent and unobtrusive (anybody can see video of any game while it happens), columnists proliferate. Sounds OK to me.
Wow, not a good night for me. I'm just now discovering that Frank Deford and Frank Gifford are two different people.
but he admits to some concern about the present state of the trade that made him famous.
Yes, all this information has given many people the illusion they can actually think. You might say they've been informed beyond their capacity to properly assimilate that information for the purpose of analytic thought. Instead, basically they simply engage in using knowledge and pseudo-knowledge to confirm their biases.
Heh, yeah. Or law school.
The problem now is that with so much information at our fingertips, people acquire some superficial knowledge on a subject and all of a sudden think they're qualified to offer an opinion. Columnists should be people who have a particular insight into a topic (or at least a special ability to communicate what knowledge they do have), not just the group of people who in the old days would've been reporters.
the changing values of our interpretive community.
[snickers to self].
You can't judge Deford by his NPR work, he's been over the hill for a while now, and I've never thought much of his baseball stuff but his SI pieces in the 70s and 80s were really good.
I think what we see when we are dissatisfied with sports writers is just a reflection of the changing values of our interpretive community.
Frank Deford on sportswriting? What's next -- Matt Millen on the state of football GMs? John McCain on the state of military pilots?
The New York Times
September 10, 2011
In Case You Wondered, a Real Human Wrote This Column
By STEVE LOHR
“WISCONSIN appears to be in the driver’s seat en route to a win, as it leads 51-10 after the third quarter. Wisconsin added to its lead when Russell Wilson found Jacob Pedersen for an eight-yard touchdown to make the score 44-3 ... . ”
Those words began a news brief written within 60 seconds of the end of the third quarter of the Wisconsin-U.N.L.V. football game earlier this month. They may not seem like much — but they were written by a computer.
The clever code is the handiwork of Narrative Science, a start-up in Evanston, Ill., that offers proof of the progress of artificial intelligence — the ability of computers to mimic human reasoning.
The company’s software takes data, like that from sports statistics, company financial reports and housing starts and sales, and turns it into articles. For years, programmers have experimented with software that wrote such articles, typically for sports events, but these efforts had a formulaic, fill-in-the-blank style. They read as if a machine wrote them.
But Narrative Science is based on more than a decade of research, led by two of the company’s founders, Kris Hammond and Larry Birnbaum, co-directors of the Intelligent Information Laboratory at Northwestern University, which holds a stake in the company. And the articles produced by Narrative Science are different.
“I thought it was magic,” says Roger Lee, a general partner of Battery Ventures, which led a $6 million investment in the company earlier this year. “It’s as if a human wrote it.” ...
The Narrative Science customers that are willing to talk do fit that model. The Big Ten Network, a joint venture of the Big Ten Conference and Fox Networks, began using the technology in the spring of 2010 for short recaps of baseball and softball games. They were posted on the network’s Web site within a minute or two of the end of each game; box scores and play-by-play data were used to generate the brief articles. (Previously, the network relied on online summaries provided by university sports offices.)
As the spring sports season progressed, the computer-generated articles improved, helped by suggestions from editors on the network’s staff, says Michael Calderon, vice president for digital and interactive media at the Big Ten Network.
The Narrative Science software can make inferences based on the historical data it collects and the sequence and outcomes of past games. To generate story “angles,” explains Mr. Hammond of Narrative Science, the software learns concepts for articles like “individual effort,” “team effort,” “come from behind,” “back and forth,” “season high,” “player’s streak” and “rankings for team.” Then the software decides what element is most important for that game, and it becomes the lead of the article, he said. The data also determines vocabulary selection. A lopsided score may well be termed a “rout” rather than a “win.” ...
He was also impressed by the cost. Hanley Wood pays Narrative Science less than $10 for each article of about 500 words — and the price will very likely decline over time. Even at $10, the cost is far less, by industry estimates, than the average cost per article of local online news ventures like AOL’s Patch or answer sites, like those run by Demand Media.
That's genuinely creepy. Too bad we can't replace a few overpaid CEO's with the same sort of robots and pass the savings down the food chain to people who actually need the money.
Wait'll you get there; you'll be asking for another 10-20 years.
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