It was once an idea seen only in movies and novels – robot and machines slowly taking over the world. (Think Terminator – scary stuff). In today’s age, is quite normal to see a robot or machine doing a once human job. Robotics have replaced many jobs in society, and journalism is no exception – enter automated journalism. Robots in the newsroom have a profound effect on journalists, but the influence it has on society is even greater.
What exactly is automated journalism?
When the term robot-journalism comes to mind, one might imagine a robot walking around the newsroom, calling sources and verifying facts. It is actually merely a piece of software. Automated journalism, or robot-journalism, is computer-generated articles made possible by using a specific algorithm to generate a news story. Nick Diakopoulus outlines the algorithm that is followed: “(1) ingest data, (2) compute newsworthy aspects of the data, (3) identify relevant angles and prioritize them, (4) link angles to story points, and (5) generate the output text.”
Automated journalism was first used by Associated Press in 2014 that partnered with automated insights to use their technology to auto-generate data-filled articles about finance and sports. Ross Miller wrote for The Verge that last year, Automated insights unveiled a Wordsmith platform designed to automatically generate natural language reports based on large data sets. It is intended to be used on a large scale, because once you have a template, you can use it generate multiple articles based on different data. Since then, AP and sites like Yahoo has jumped on the robo-journalism train.
The idea of automated journalism has many benefits. Speed, efficiency and less mistakes means more stories produced in less time, with fewer people to pay. Robots are currently only used for hard news – opinion pieces are still left to human journos. The downside to it is obviously the loss of jobs, but Associated Press and other companies have argued that robo-journalism will create new jobs in the industry, as data journalism will develop and journos with more diverse skill sets will be needed.
What influence will it have?
Automated journalism is the next step in evolution of journalism. It will change the newsroom, as well as society’s perception of news. Although it has only yet been seen in print media, it might even branch out into television reporting – a big step, but one that might be taken in the near future. I think it will influence the newsroom, as well as society in a positive way. News will be more accurate, sent out much faster and no bias whatsoever will be detected in hard-news stories. If robots and humans find common ground and work together to produce the best news possible, journalism will enter a new phase of accuracy and fairness, something that is seen too little these days. The media, as well as society, can only benefit from automated journalism.
Society should view robot-journalism as the Terminator that Arnold Schwarzenegger famously portrayed in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. At first, it’s new and quite frightening, but once you get to know it, you will be pleasantly surprised. They don’t want to take over the world – they want to help make it a better place.