Tech News: Arlington, Mass. Becomes Hub for Cutting-Edge AI Journalism!

An AI News Site Takes Root in Arlington, Mass.

In response to the lack of local news in Arlington, Massachusetts, software developer Winston Chen and foreign correspondent David Trilling have teamed up to launch Nano Media, a nonprofit company that aims to automate local reporting using AI technology. If successful, Chen and Trilling plan to offer their digital toolkit to other news-starved communities across the United States.

The decline of traditional journalism due to digital technology has left many towns and suburbs without reliable news sources. According to the Medill School of Journalism, around 2,500 US newspapers have closed since 2005, resulting in significant job losses for journalists. However, it remains uncertain whether computer-generated news stories will further contribute to job cuts.

Wire services like Reuters and the Associated Press have been using computerized news for years, mainly for simple events such as high school sports or corporate financial reports. These systems combine raw data with pre-created text templates to generate readable stories. While this approach has its limitations, it has allowed human journalists to focus on more complex stories.

However, not all attempts at AI-generated news have been successful. Lede AI, a company offering AI tools for producing local sports stories, faced criticism after client newspapers published articles with repetitive phrases. Despite these glitches, companies like Inside Arlington are taking AI technology a step further. They use software to scan government websites, capture reports, and transcribe video recordings of public meetings. The resulting texts are then summarized using ChatGPT software, with human editors ensuring accuracy before publication.

While AI-generated stories offer efficiency and cost-effectiveness, concerns have been raised about their authenticity. Former journalism professor Jeff Jarvis warns that AI software can create stories with no connection to reality. For instance, the technology news site CNET had to issue corrections for dozens of AI-generated articles earlier this year.

Despite these concerns, Nano Media’s initiative in Arlington demonstrates the potential for AI technology to address the news desert problem in communities across the US. By providing a scalable and affordable digital toolkit, Chen and Trilling hope to empower individuals to start their own local news outlets.