Artificial Intelligence Top Stories

Quartz AI Studio lends journalists a helping hand with open-source platform

2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day.

It’s got so out of hand that no one really knows what that number means anymore. Suffice to say it’s way beyond the bounds of mere billions and trillions, way beyond what the human brain can compute… 

Data specialist Domo has attempted to give us the big picture, a startling portrait of the immense amount of content that is flooding the Internet at any given moment.

Even worse, all of the above is incorrect.

It’s last year’s data, and digital production is growing exponentially.

The situation, for journalists, is anathema. When there is too much information to sort through, data slips through the cracks, and patterns go unobserved.

Enter AI. Since only robot brains can process content faster than it’s being produced.

Quartz AI Studio, a US-based project, has launched an open-source platform to help journalists use machine learning in the newsroom, and write data-driven stories.

The Quartz AI Studio is supported by a new grant from the Knight Foundation and builds on the successful Quartz Bot Studio, which also launched with Knight support.

Artificial intelligence has the potential to have a transformative impact on the ways in which journalists share and spread the news. The Quartz AI Studio will hone this opportunity, putting artificial intelligence reporting methods into the hands of more journalists and helping small and mid-size news organizations increase their capacity to innovate,” said Paul Cheung, Knight Foundation director for journalism and technology innovation.

“Many of our bots do include artificial intelligence, and specifically machine-learning, in their operations,” says John Keefe, Quartz’s technical architect for bots and machine learning. “But that’s usually to help facilitate conversations — understanding and interpreting natural language, for example.”

“But for the machine learning we think can help support reporters, the applications are far more specific. More like: ‘Computer, here are 100 examples of the pattern I’m looking for. Please find more of those this in this pile of 1 million records.’”

This initiative offers reporters a set of free tools to help them write better data-driven stories. The machine-learning tools available on the platform can help journalists even if they have no coding or maths skills.

Over the next year, Quartz plans to use machine-learning methods to publish several stories that would otherwise be impossible.

John Keefe, Quartz’s technical architect for bots and machine learning

“This is taking [data journalism] to the next level where we’re trying to get journalists comfortable using computers to do some of this pattern matching, sorting, grouping, anomaly detection — really working with especially large data sets,” said Keefe.

According to Keefe, artificial intelligence can help journalists with various difficult and time-consuming tasks, such as categorizing data, spotting patterns within huge datasets of words, numbers or pictures, and even making predictions based on what happened in the past.

Machine learning can help solve these problems and Quartz tries to bring these solutions to smaller newsrooms that often haven’t got resources to do this themselves.

The studio will help newsrooms understand the technology by publishing how-to guides, best practices and open-source computer code with Quartz’s stories.

Quartz AI Studio has also launched a dedicated Slack bot for journalists, aptly named Quackbot, that can do some handy tasks, such as grabbing screenshots of websites or pointing out clichés, reports Marcela Kunova, Acting Editor at Journalism.co.uk. More tools and content will be added to Quackbot as more data-driven stories are published.

Keefe maintains that the objective of the project is to share the tools with as many journalists as possible, and Quartz wants to collaborate with other news organizations for at least half of their published stories.

Journalists with projects that can use help from a skilled machine-learning programmer can drop the Quartz AI team a note at bots@qz.com.

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