By Scott Brown
Updated October 05, 2006 at 09:56 PM EDT

How do you combine the inst-inanity of cable news with the immense unpopularity of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within? This is how. This… is News at Seven. Or, as I like to refer to her/it, ”Newsbot.” (Thanks to The Hollywood Reporter for the link.)

Created by Northwestern University’s Infolab, News at Seven ”automatically generates a virtual news show” — it trolls the wires and blogs, culls stories and pipes them through ”believable human-like newscasters.” This marks a significant improvement of the lab’s first attempt, Brit Hume. (And yes, once N@7‘s ”virtual anchor” grows too old or crazy or richly compensated, she will be replaced by a younger version with bigger digi-boobs.)

Is this the ulimate in ”fair and balanced” reporting? God, no. Theprogramming allows you to tailor the newscast to your interests andpersonal, customized reality. So don’t worry: You won’t have toconfront any hard truths that don’t conform to your value system,mealtimes, or blogging schedule.

The next step, of course, is Virtual Fake News. Because the old-fashioned fake news, according to this Indiana University study,is getting uncomfortably substantive. The Daily Show with Jon Stewartis, according to the ivory tower, ”a legitimate source of news.” Quoththe academicians, ”there is some substance on there, and in some cases,like John Edwards announcing his candidacy, the news is made on theshow. You have real newsmakers coming on, and yes, sometimes the banterand questions get a little silly, but there is also substantivedialogue going on.”

”Substantive dialogue going on”? Yes, absolutely. I love The DailyShow. Only witches and Visigoths don’t like The Daily Show. But is it asource of news? No. No more than, say, The View. It’s comedy,it’s commentary, it’s undeniably relevant. But ”a legitimate source ofnews”? It’s a relater of secondhand news, filtered through a viewpoint.(Trying… very hard… to resist… another cheap shot at Fox News…)

In the future, I sure hope my custom Newsbot filters links likethese out of my newstream. I don’t want to know anything I haven’t beenpreselected to agree with wholeheartedly. It will be the least Newsbotcan do for me — because, by that time, I’ll probably be letting her usemy body as a bioelectric battery and host for her teeming cyberyoung.