Nieman Foundation at Harvard
Is the news industry ready for another pivot to video?
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Oct. 4, 2023, 12:17 p.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Sarah Scire   |   October 4, 2023

What counts as clickbait? Merriam-Webster’s definition is “something (such as a headline) designed to make readers want to click on a hyperlink especially when the link leads to content of dubious value or interest.”

Keep that in mind as you browse some of the top headlines on The Messenger’s homepage this morning:

  • “Ed Sheeran Says Snoop Dogg Got Him So High He ‘Couldn’t See'”
  • “Late-Night Hosts Roast Kevin McCarthy: ‘You Are History'”
  • “Trump Drops Off Forbes List of Richest Americans”
  • “Rep. Chip Roy on Gaetz RINO Comments: ‘You Can Kiss My A–.'”

That line-up is just one reason why people were just a little confused to see The Messenger — which launched earlier this year — announce they’d partnered with AI company Seekr to flag “clickbait” and “eliminate bias” in their reporting.

The press release claims “the partnership makes The Messenger among the first media publishing companies to leverage AI to ensure editorial content consistently aligns with journalism standards.”

For now, The Messenger reporters will not be required to use the tool. Those who opt-in will “receive a score reflecting their political lean and reliability that will be visible to readers,” Adweek reported.

We’ve seen a lot of money thrown at projects that promise to “solve bias” once and for all. Seekr seems even less familiar with journalism than some of these other efforts. One giveaway? It calls headlines “titles” throughout its site. Its “clickbait” score, for example, is based on whether “the title appeal to curiosity or emotion instead of describing the story.”

“We believe that in the hands of publishers, our technology will be an extraordinarily effective quality control tool,” Rob Clark, president and chief technology officer at Seekr, says in the release. “The technology is accurate, reliable, and extremely fast, and it can help ensure that published content consistently adheres to basic standards.”

After taking a look at which articles have earned “very high reliability” scores from Seekr, we only have more questions.

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