Jim KirkCutting costs: good. Streamlining operations: really good. Eliminating a human editor from the process of publishing news: not gonna happen.
That’s the message that

Hyperlocal journalism: you can only automate so much

Jim KirkCutting costs: good. Streamlining operations: really good. Eliminating a human editor from the process of publishing news: not gonna happen.

That’s the message that Sun-Times Media’s editor-in-chief, Jim Kirk, sought to relay on the second day of the Street Fight Summit conference on hyperlocal publishing in New York City. Kirk was talking with Everyblock president Brian Addison and DataSphere veep Gary Cowan about automation and the use of raw data to complement—or replace—traditional, i.e. human, content creation and curation.

Kirk, who joined Sun-Times in April from Crain’s, referred to the Journatic scandal in which a freelance writer plagiarized an article for crosstown rival Tribune’s hyperlocal arm (Sun-Times had a relationship with Journatic at the time) and said that human editors add cost but remain a necessity. Nevertheless, he added, the days of waiting for a new business to arrive are over and Sun-Times and other publishers have to push for new ways to produce local content at a cost that’s sustainable. “It’s either move forward or die,” Kirk told the audience.

Everyblock’s Addison also had words of caution about relying too much on raw data over reporting that uses it. Everyblock, owned by NBC, combines aggregation of data and news with a social platform based on ZIP code, relying on a combination of content scattered elsewhere and users who contribute messages and events info. But Addison said raw data is only a starting point for providing hyperlocal content. Publishing unfiltered police reports, for example? “It’s dry and creepy,” said Addison. “It has niche appeal.”

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