Automated technology gone wrong

Written by Adrian Holovaty on August 19, 2002

Forgot to mention something about the New York Times article I highlighted in today's lunchtime links. This article serves as an example of automated technology gone wrong. In the second-to-last graf, the word Northwestern (in "The Daily Northwestern") is linked to a company profile on Northwestern Corp. Clearly automatically links any occurrence of the word "Northwestern" to that company profile page. Silly inaccuracies like these damage a news site's credibility. An irrelevant link is just as bad as a misspelled word in a headline.

How would staff members fix such an error? Does their content-management system allow producers to bypass the auto-linking for a particular story? That'd be an easy fix. If not, I fear the only other possible solution, short of turning off the auto-linking sitewide, would be to rewrite the story so that the word "Northwestern" wasn't included. I doubt they'd go that far, but this is an interesting case of journalists being at the mercy of imperfect technology.


Posted by Sara on August 20, 2002, at 4:16 p.m.:

One time I was reading an article about obesity on and a related link was "Fat Cats in Big Business" or something like that. Totally unrelated. Automating that feature can speed the job for the production team, but a human should at least glance at the "related links" before giving them the OK. Really obvious errors could be easily omitted.

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