The bot that aims to make hacks less sexist

Tomorrow's Business

The very female senior editor was trying, not very hard, to hide her annoyance with the obituaries desk. They were offering an all-male list of notable figures who had passed away, again. “Did no women die this week?” she asked.

She was kidding on the square, as we call it. Joking, but she meant it. Missing the mood, the obits editor replied: “We’ll have a few bumped off for later in the week.”

Believe it or not, I think newspapers try hard to avoid male bias, at least these days. But there is no escaping that most leading politicians and most business leaders are men.

We can self-correct; or astute editors can pick us up on our bias. But perhaps we need computer help.

The Guardian reports here on a new bot employed by the FT which warns hacks if their articles quote too many men. This follows the paper finding that only 21% of the people quoted in the FT are women.

An internal FT email quoted by the Graun said: “Desks that use quotes from a high proportion of women also feature more women in their pictures, and their articles are well read by women.”

On the one hand, perhaps this is a bit mechanical. Do we really need a computer to tell us we are sexist? On the other, perhaps this is a handy device, at least until we’ve figured it out for ourselves.


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