Weather bots allow journos to focus on journalism

Aug 09, 2023 at 11:59 am by admin

Demand for weather-related news has drawn news media companies such as the New York Times and McClatchy to look at ways of efficiently delivering the data-based content.

The New York Times’ new free ‘Your Places: Extreme Weather’ newsletter lets readers pick four locations about which they’d like to stay updated, and delivers a rundown of the risks of extreme weather over the next three days with links to the extreme weather page of the newspaper’s website.

At McClatchy, an automated content service uses hurricane data from the National Weather Service, which is also the source for the NYT product.

Cecilia Campbell of Swedish tech company United Robots, which built the McClatchy system, says the idea was simple: “With automated texts about extreme weather, the local newsrooms would be able to service readers with fast and reliable updates, allowing reporters to focus on covering developments on the ground.”

A hurricane bot built ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Ian – the deadliest hurricane to strike Florida since 1935 –provided McClatchy publications such as the Miami Herald with constantly updated automated articles, which meant reporters did not need to monitor the NWS to write updates. “Instead, they were free to focus on developing quality journalism,” she says in an INMA blog.

With increasingly extreme weather events impacting communities across the world, correct and up-to-date information is critical for people affected, and for local publishers, this is an opportunity to make a real difference to readers.

“Service them with reliable extreme weather updates, and they will likely start to come back to your site to stay on top of the situation and plan for what will come next.

Campbell says the New York Times newsletter is an impressive and well-designed product. Whenever there’s a risk of any of four types of extreme weather – excessive rain, tornadoes, high winds, or hail – in Charlotte, Charleston, Chicago, or San Francisco, the newsletter swings into action, delivering on a promise to ‘monitor the possibility of extreme weather in places that are important to you’.

At McClatchy, the constantly-updated automated articles which meant reporters did not need to monitor the NWS to write updates.

Audience growth and content monetisation vice president Cynthia DuBose said journalists were able to concentrate on reporting evacuations, city preparedness, other efforts. “That’s journalism that cannot be replaced by a robot.”

Sustainability equals local relevance.”

Campbell says the beauty of national weather data, such as that from the US National Weather Service, is that it is of high quality, constantly updated, and free to access. “That means it’s perfectly suited for automated text generation.

“The local publishers we work with are keen to take advantage of it to build out further indispensable services to their readers,” she says.

A broader Weather Warnings product – with automated updates in a range of extreme weather categories – will enable publishers to easily update their local communities on all things related to weather, including through push notifications. “Hopefully they’ll also create a stronger relationship with their readers by providing a valuable service when it’s most needed,” she says.


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