Editorial Algorithms: Using Social Media to Discover and Report Local News

Screenshot of CityBeat interface showing the Detected Events List, Event Window and the Statistics Sidebar

Schwartz, R., Naaman M., Teodoro R.

The role of algorithms in the detection, curation and broadcast of news is becoming increasingly prevalent. To better understand this role we developed CityBeat, a system that implements what we call “editorial algorithms” to find possible news events. This fully functional system collects real-time geo-tagged information from social media, finds key stories, makes an editorial decision whether these events are of interest and eventually visualizes these stories on a big screen display. The system was designed in collaboration with journalists and tested at four New York City newsrooms. Our results show that while journalists were receptive to the idea of machine-generated news stories, the actual results of the system confirmed current concerns among journalists and researchers about the dangers of outsourcing news-finding tasks to machines. This paper, therefore, exemplifies how news sourcing systems based on social media may favor specific types of news events, do not report results quickly enough, and cater to a biased population and range of interests.

The research was published in The Ninth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM-15) on 5/1/2015. The research is supported by the Brown Institute Magic Grant for the project CityBeat.

Access the paper: http://razschwartz.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Editorial_Algorithms_ICWSM2015_Schwartz_Naaman_Teodoro.pdf
To contact the authors, please send a message to mkrisch@columbia.edu