New trial puts local news on the RADAR


No journalist would ever dream of producing 30,000 stories in a month. But then again, not many journalists have the help of a robot. 

Back in August, a new service from the Press Association and Urbs Media, called Reporters And Data And Robots, or RADAR, was awarded €706,000 to produce up to 30,000 localised stories a month from open data sets.

To meet this target, RADAR has a dedicated team of reporters finding interesting stories in open data sets, then writing these stories and crafting Natural Language Generation (NLG) templates to localise them for hundreds of markets.

But, as the CEO of Urbs Media acknowledged, "this is uncharted territory, so our plan is to gradually introduce volume to ensure that the quality of story produced and distributed is high".

Following the completion of a trial in November, involving 35 regional titles from 14 publishing groups, the capacity of RADAR to deliver on its promise is looking encouraging.

Stories have already appeared in 20 daily and weekly titles, both online and in print, with multiple versions of four stories being distributed in the first week of copy testing.

The first focussed on trends in birth registrations across the UK, specifically how many children were registered by married, cohabiting or single parents, based on figures from the Office of National Statistics. 

Then, this was followed by three stories on cancelled operations across England extracted from NHS data, life chances for disadvantaged children based on data from the government's Social Mobility Commission, and average road delays according to localised Department of Transport data.

As the pilot is gradually stepped up over the coming months, the RADAR team will also be introducing new channels to distribute these large volumes of stories to local news outlets, including PA Explore, the new customer portal being developed by the Press Association. RADAR will then start to develop graphics and animated video to distribute with localised copy.

Find out more at the Press Association's website here or Urbs Media's website here.

Image: Thomas Hawk.