AI journalism is here to stay, but what does it mean for newsrooms?

By Audrey Popa

Updated May 19, 2020 at 01:50 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

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In recent years, the digital media landscape has seen an array of trends—the rise of clickbait and fluff articles emerging from ad-generated revenue models, and positive feedback loops created by social media middlemen in the grand scheme of timeline catering. Changes in business models led to the thriving success of some and the bankruptcy of others. Throughout this volatility, the world of journalism has been disrupted by technology just like any other industry, and with that, the era of digitisation might have saved the dying world of the newspaper, but the introduction of AI journalism might very well be able to provide the news industry with a solution to its newest problem: keeping up with the speed of information.  

In many main news publications, AI has been a crucial aspect of their growth strategy for the last few years. The immediate creation of financial reports, sports articles, and pieces focused on national disaster are being handed over to our machine counterparts. Soon, robot journalism will seep into just about anything that falls under some sort of numbers-based reporting.

The rise of machine-generated journalism is inevitable, and one that we shouldn’t want to push away. Currently, about one-third of all content on Bloomberg News uses some sort of automated technology, while Forbes is testing out an AI technology that will help create rough drafts and templates for reporters. The WSJ and Dow Jones are both experimenting with technology that can transcribe interviews, and Wired constantly plays around with AI written science fiction stories and scripts. Some extremities have even seen an attempt at replacing human news anchors with machine ones, like the recently introduced AI news anchor in China.

With the world around us bursting with upgrades, it seems that gradually everything around us is becoming excitingly infused with the technology of the future. Within this constant tech conversation, the world of news and its gizmos is no exception. What the use of AI journalism in some of the world’s staple media publishers shows is just how much more intrinsically connected robots are to journalism than we currently assume. So why is our initial feeling towards robot written articles ones of uneasiness?

At the end of the day, if done properly, AI is able to crunch numbers better and faster than we’ll ever be able to. As robot generated journalism takes over the responsibility of producing these reports and articles, journalists will have more time to tackle investigative, in-depth pieces that demand humility and a moral compass (so you would hope). Arguably, now more than ever there is a need for journalists to be able to provide think-pieces that hold governments and powerful players accountable.

The integration of AI journalism will quite possibly lead to a strengthened trust in news and journalism, as the intelligence landscape of news outlets becomes more competitive. The journalistic standard has and always will stay the same, and the integration of AI will only help us better achieve that level of standard.

With the current pattern of those consuming the news being reading small, mainstream, information-heavy pieces, the focus has been on utilising human capital to create those repetitive and simple pieces. With the projected use of automation though, computer-authored journalism will give way for journalists to pursue less mechanical stories, and focus instead on ones that are of higher quality and of a more investigative nature.  

The upcoming technological reshaping in the newsroom is going to be incredibly disruptive. Robots will be able to automate certain aspects of reporters and their jobs, but more importantly, augment their abilities to do real investigative, opinion-based journalism. With the automation of redundant and labour-intensive reports, the availability of human capital to focus on less repetitive work will result in humans being able to do what we do best: having an opinion, providing perspectives, being curious, and extracting some sense other than numbers and figures from what’s happening around us.

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