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The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Big Ten Network drops the ball using computer software to write game recaps

It's a subject I've opined before on this platform: Should journalism outlets be using computer-generated copy, Narrative Science, in particular? A list exposed the Big Ten Network for using the software, but BTN, which runs Associated Press content, adequately labels the NS content as such in its quarter-by-quarter recaps. Chances are, however, that most people have no idea what Narrative Science is. BTN links to the service's homepage, but once there, the site gives no appearance that it's a computer generating stories about human activities. Instead, it looks like a site based in agriculture.
This is the awkward lede to the NS story:
"Denard Robinson threw for 338 yards and four touchdowns, leading Michigan to a 35-31 victory over Notre Dame on Saturday at Michigan Stadium."
This is the lede to the AP story we ran:
"Denard Robinson threw a 16-yard pass to Roy Roundtree with 2 seconds left, lifting Michigan to a 35-31 heart-pounding win over Notre Dame on Saturday night."
Notice the difference?
Here's another graceless paragraph:
"The Wolverines operated their air game to perfection in dismantling Notre Dame’s defense. Michigan’s air attack couldn’t be contained, as it torched the Fighting Irish for 338 yards and four touchdowns. Robinson completed 11 of 24 passes for the Wolverines. Michigan racked up 452 total yards."
I might just sound like some curmudgeonly writer, but I don't want some computer hack taking my job, especially if it can't do the task equally well. And even if they perfect the software, it seems a human proofreader should still be on hand to double-check and add a human touch.
Here's a visual of the game in case you forgot about the latest thrilling end to a Michigan-Notre Dame tilt. There's no confusion in the broadcast.

FINAL THOUGHT: The Big Ten Network can't find ANY students writers at one of the 12 schools underneath its expansive umbrella to craft games stories rather than showing J-school students why they shouldn't even bother with the art?


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