The folks on Poynter's Online-News mailing list have been debating whether it was fair for judges to have named the entirely-automated Google News a finalist in this year's EPpy Awards. Here, for what it's worth, is what I posted to the list:
I just took a look at the list of 2003 EPpy winners.
In 2003, ESPN.com was named Best Internet Sports Service. A prominent feature of ESPN.com is its Gamecast technology, which displays graphics and stats for sporting events in real time. Sure, humans somewhere enter that data, but as far as ESPN.com is concerned, Gamecast is automated. It is made possible by software algorithms.
Also last year, CBS MarketWatch.com was named Best Internet Business Service. That site has an amazing amount of dynamically created market information -- graphics, tables, averages, all sliced and diced in convenient ways. I'm willing to bet that few humans at CBS MarketWatch are involved with day-to-day generation of that content.
The point, as these somewhat contrived examples show, is that many Web sites -- and probably *most* big-media sites in 2004 -- are maintained by algorithms to some extent. Programmers, not necessarily journalists, write the code. Google News just takes that to the extreme.
Please note my bias as a professional programmer, but I'd say a news application developed by computer scientists is just as deserving of journalism awards as a collection of news stories produced by traditional journalists.