By Agustin Palacio
Quotes lie at the heart of what journalists do. It is often what makes news ‘new’; they are the ingredients of the ‘national conversation’ that journalism seeks to host. Now one site is seeking to provide an overview of that conversation.
Launched in March as a beta, Trooclick tracks quotes from news sites and social media and classifies them by topic, showing on one screen who is saying what and whether their comments are ‘positive’ or ‘negative’.
Its creators believe that it provides a more neutral account of current events due to a greater variety of sources than anything else currently available. Community manager Paul Nolan said:
“Our aim is to provide an alternative to article-based journalism that can be used by the general public.
“Why read a handful of articles when you can get a cross section of every opinion on a breaking news story at a glance? We think that telling stories through articles needs to be challenged and we are providing an alternative.”
Automated quote collection
The “cleaning” process of finding and classifying quotes takes place through artificial intelligence with a little human intervention.
First, issues are automatically generated by the system, which checks out hundreds of articles related to that story to harvest opinion from across the media.
The information is then automatically classified, grouping sources according to roles; executives, lawyers, experts, journalists, and so on.
Finally, throughout the process sentiment analysis technology provides an overall picture of the general sentiment of the issue, which can be positive or negative.
Direct, indirect and any kind of quotes
The system identifies quotes in different ways. As a result not only does the site pull up direct quotes like this:
“McDonalds will stop serving antibiotic-raised poultry,” said McDonalds President, Mike Andres.
…But also indirect ones like this:
Mike Andres, McDonalds President, said McDonalds will stop serving antibiotic-raised poultry.
And some quotes come from opinion columns (“Hopefully chicken is just the start – I hope the Big Mac and McRib will be next”) and analysis (“McDonald’s decision to sell milk produced without rBST was a good step because the growth hormone can cause health problems in dairycows.”)
Trooclick currently has a team of 18 full-time people, and is expected to be fully operational by Autumn 2015.
The beta is collecting 2,500 quotes per day, but the plan is to reach 250,000 per day by the time the final version goes live.
Ultimately, it seems that widespread distrust of the media is one of the key drivers behind the site. Nolan adds:
“We hope that a broader selection of opinion on events will lead to better understanding. We think such a tool is important to increase understanding in the news.”