Reuters chief explains how agency is using algorithms to improve accuracy

The president and editor-in-chief of international news agency Reuters has outlined plans to make the company’s news-gathering processes “more transparent” in an attempt to combat the rise of ‘fake news’.

In an interview with The Drum, Stephen J. Adler, the president and editor-in-chief of Reuters, said: “It’s a time to double down on being unbiased and being careful and being dispassionate good journalists.”

He added: “You correct your errors quickly and prominently, you call people back when they tell you you made a mistake. You sometimes call the head of an organisation and say ‘hey, we messed that up and here’s how we are fixing it.’

“The more ethical the behaviour is, the more we earn the right to be trusted.”

Adler also revealed further details about Reuters News Tracer, a new piece of technology being used in Reuters’ international newsrooms to seek out and verify breaking news stories.

Tracer, which was unveiled in December, scours Twitter for the first signs of a breaking story and “at lightning speed” subjects it to testing. It then uses computer algorithms to help Reuters journalists assign a story a star rating based on how likely it is to be accurate.

“We are finding as we are prototyping it that it’s giving us a high level of confidence way before any news organisation is writing about it,” Alder said.

On the subject of ‘fake news’ Alder said he felt people were “panicking a bit” about the phenomenon.

“Sometimes you have to slow down”, he said. “Sometimes people get overwhelmed with the business challenge of our industry, and are chasing scale at the expense of care.

“All this stuff is reminding us how important it is be right and to be very transparent about correcting.”

 

Picture: Reuters/Simon Newman 

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