Wordsmith — the world’s first self-service platform for automated, data-driven writing — has only been out in the world for a short time. Already, though, we’re amazed by the stories it’s producing. For example, this story about a real California car chase:

JULY 13TH, 2015, San Pedro, California — A vehicle pursuit that commenced in Wilmington during the late evening of July 13th later ended with the crash of the suspect in Point Fermin Park. The incident began at about 11:00 PM when the unknown driver of a Toyota Prius fled from officers of the Los Angeles Port Police following a traffic stop on Pacific Coast Highway in Wilmington. The suspect was then pursued by the LAPP along Alameda Street to San Pedro, and then further along Alameda Street to Point Fermin Park. The incident concluded with the crash of the suspect in Point Fermin Park, where the suspect drove over a cliff. The unidentified suspect was treated for injuries at the scene and was expected to be arrested.

Who says software can’t do drama?

Wordsmith user David Caswell configured the platform to generate that story, along with several others. This one concludes with a trip to the hospital; this one ends in a fatal helicopter shooting. The stories are as riveting as they are real.

Caswell, a Fellow at the University of Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute, obtained each story’s underlying event data from structured reporting by a major Los Angeles news organization. His experimental research project, Structured Stories, seeks to break news stories down into elemental components which can be automatically reconstructed into various story formats like bullet points, a timeline, and, with the help of Wordsmith, natural language.

Car chases — Caswell calls them “pursuit stories” — are an ideal test for integrating Wordsmith into the Structured Stories process. The narratives all include standard events and elements — the fleeing suspect, the pursuing entity, a series of locations — as well as an obvious beginning, middle, and end. Caswell is working on story structures of much greater complexity — after all, many types of news stories include unexpected events and elements. He’s optimistic that eventually, Wordsmith will work in those cases, too.

What’s really exciting is that Caswell configured the pursuit stories after just a few days of experimenting with Wordsmith. We can’t wait to see what kind of stories he’ll get Wordsmith to tell next.

Originally published on AutomatedInsights.com


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MU | Missouri School of Journalism | University of Missouri