LONDON: At least 20 regional newspapers in the UK have already published stories that were jointly written by robots and humans in a project that is being described as a world-first for journalism.

The automated news service is called RADAR, or Reporters and Data and Robots, and some 35 news titles from 14 publishing groups have been taking part in a pilot that was launched at the end of November.

Co-ordinated by the Press Association, the national news agency for the UK and Ireland, and tech firm Urbs Media, the project is funded by a €700,000 grant from Google’s Digital News Initiative.

As reported by Press Gazette, the ultimate plan is to generate 30,000 localised stories a month from data using Natural Language Generation software that writes them automatically.

With human journalists also involved, the pilot saw regional news titles publishing localised versions of four stories sourced from official statistics.

These included trends in birth registrations across the UK, cancelled operations across England extracted from NHS data, a breakdown on social mobility and life chances for disadvantaged children based on Social Mobility Commission data, and main road delays based on figures from the Department for Transport.

For example, the Financial Times reported, the Express and Star in the West Midlands were able to use the data to reveal that the majority of new mothers in Wolverhampton are unmarried.

Meanwhile, the Croydon Advertiser reported that seven potentially life-saving operations were cancelled at hospitals in its area of south London in October.

For Toby Granville, Editorial Development Director at Newsquest, one of the participating publishers in the trial, the automated software helped to free up journalists for other work.

“It could be a real game-changer for us,” he said. “It provides us with content we would not normally be able to produce.”

Gary Rogers, Editor-in-Chief at Urbs Media, said: “We believe these are the first automated local news stories published in established news brands anywhere in the world.

“We’re delighted to be up and running with a great user group who are already helping to steer our thinking on the topics and style of the stories we generate.”

Sourced from Press Gazette, Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff