Will robo-journalists displace human reporters in the near future? The trends in newsrooms …

“We’ve seen a greater acceptance of the potential for artificial intelligence, or robo-journalism, in newsrooms around the world,” Damian Radcliffe, …
Robo-journalism

Robo-journalism&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspGetty Images

In November 2018, a text-generating “bot” named Tobi produced an incredible 40,000 news stories about Switzerland elections in just five minutes for Tamedia. According to a paper presented at the Computation + Journalism conference in Miami, Tobi wrote on vote results of Switzerland’s 2,222 municipalities in both French and German.

Just three months after the incredible feat was reported by world media, robo-journalism is now being touted to change media landscape in the coming years. Now, artificial intelligence programs, which have been available for more than a decade, are being used by in news organisations to produce stories, personalise new delivery and even anchor news bulletins, reported AFP.

“We’ve seen a greater acceptance of the potential for artificial intelligence, or robo-journalism, in newsrooms around the world,” Damian Radcliffe, a University of Oregon professor who follows business models for journalism, told the news agency.

“These systems can offer speed and accuracy and potentially support the realities of smaller newsrooms and the time pressures of journalists,” he added.

However, top news organisations around the world maintained that bots are not intended to displace human reporters and editors but rather help them in monotonous tasks.

“The (Washington) Post has an incredible team of reporters and editors and we didn’t want to replace them,” Jeremy Gilbert, director of strategic initiatives at The Washington Post, told the agency.

He was referring to Washington Post automated program Heliograf which was developed to help the newspaper’s editorial team.

Newsrooms around the world are using similar automated tools to churn out a large number of reports in a matter of minutes.

NTB, a Norwegian news agency, automated sports reports to get match results delivered within 30 seconds and Los Angeles Times developed a “quakebot” that has the ability to distribute news articles on weather and tremblors.

One of the most impressive bots in the media industry is called Cyborg and its owned by Bloomberg.

Cyborg “dissects a company’s earnings the moment they appear” and produces mini-wraps with numbers in a matter of minutes.

At the beginning of March, Chinese news organisation Xinhua announced that a female artificial intelligence news presenter will soon hit TV screens in the country.

Xinhua also released a photo of the female AI news anchor dressed in a pink and maroon dress.

While news professionals acknowledge the limitations of a robot, there are fears about Artificial Intelligence spinning out of control.

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Robo-journalism gains traction in shifting media landscape

These kinds of artificial intelligence programs — available for nearly a … “We’ve seen a greater acceptance of the potential for artificial intelligence, …
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Washington (AFP)

A text-generating “bot” nicknamed Tobi produced nearly 40,000 news stories about the results of the November 2018 elections in Switzerland for the media giant Tamedia — in just five minutes.

These kinds of artificial intelligence programs — available for nearly a decade — are becoming more widespread as news organizations turn to them to produce stories, personalize news delivery and in some cases sift through data to find important news.

Tobi wrote on vote results for each of Switzerland’s 2,222 municipalities, in both French and German, for the country’s largest media group, according to a paper presented last month at the Computation + Journalism conference in Miami.

A similar automated program called Heliograf has enabled The Washington Post daily to cover some 500 election races, along with local sports and business, since 2014.

“We’ve seen a greater acceptance of the potential for artificial intelligence, or robo-journalism, in newsrooms around the world,” said Damian Radcliffe, a University of Oregon professor who follows consumer trends and business models for journalism.

“These systems can offer speed and accuracy and potentially support the realities of smaller newsrooms and the time pressures of journalists.”

News organizations say the bots are not intended to displace human reporters or editors but rather to help free them from the most monotonous tasks, such as sports results and earnings reports.

Jeremy Gilbert, director of strategic initiatives at The Washington Post, said Heliograf was developed as a tool to help the newspaper’s editorial team.

“The Post has an incredible team of reporters and editors and we didn’t want to replace them,” Gilbert told AFP.

– ‘Is this something we can automate?’ –

Gilbert said the bot can deliver and update stories more quickly as they develop, allowing reporters to concentrate on other tasks, and that reaction has been generally positive.

“The surprise was that a lot of people came up and said, ‘I do this story every week; is this something we can automate?'” Gilbert said.

“These weren’t stories that anyone wanted to do.”

Similar conversations are going on in newsrooms around the world. The Norwegian news agency NTB automated sports reports to get match results delivered within 30 seconds.

The Los Angeles Times developed a “quakebot” that quickly distributes news articles on temblors in the region and also uses an automated system as part of its Homicide Report.

The Associated Press has been automating quarterly earnings reports for some 3,000 listed companies, allowing the news agency to expand from what had been just a few hundred, and this year announced plans with its partner Automated Insights to deliver computer-generated previews of college basketball games.

Rival news agency Reuters last year announced the launch of Lynx Insight, which uses automated data analysis to identify trends and anomalies and to suggest stories reporters should write.

Bloomberg’s computerized system called Cyborg “dissects a company’s earnings the moment they appear” and produces within seconds a “mini-wrap with all the numbers and a lot of context,” editor-in-chief John Micklethwait wrote last year, noting that one-fourth of the agency’s content “has some degree of automation.”

France’s Le Monde and its partner Syllabs deployed a computer program that generated 150,000 web pages covering 36,000 municipalities in the 2015 elections.

One advantage of using algorithmically generated stories is that they can also be “personalized,” or delivered to the relevant localities, which can be useful for elections and sports coverage.

– Investigative robo-reporter? –

While news professionals acknowledge the limits of computer programs, they also note that automated systems can sometimes accomplish things humans can’t.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution used a data journalism team to uncover 450 cases of doctors who were brought before medical regulators or courts for sexual misconduct, finding that nearly half remained licensed to practice medicine.

The newspaper used machine learning, an artificial intelligence tool, to analyze each case and assign a “probability rating” on sexual misconduct, which was then reviewed by a team of journalists.

Studies appear to indicate consumers accept computer-generated stories, which are mostly labeled as such.

A report prepared by researcher Andreas Graefe for Columbia University’s Tow Center said one study of Dutch readers found that the label of computer-generated “had no effect on people’s perceptions of quality.”

A second study of German readers, Graefe said, found that “automated articles were rated as more credible,” although human-written news scored higher for “readability.”

– Robot apocalypse? –

Even though journalists and robots appear to be helping each other, fears persist about artificial intelligence spinning out of control and costing journalists’ jobs.

In February, researchers at the nonprofit center OpenAI announced they had developed an automatic text generator so good that it is keeping details private for now.

The researchers said the program could be used for nefarious purposes, including to generate fake news articles, impersonating others online, and automate fake content on social media.

But Meredith Broussard, a professor of data journalism at New York University, said she does not see any immediate threats of robots taking over newsrooms.

She said there are many positive applications of AI in the newsroom, but that for now, most programs handle “the most boring” stories.

“There are some jobs that are going to be automated, but overall, I’m not worried about the robot apocalypse in the newsroom,” she said.

© 2019 AFP

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Does The Rise Of Robot Journalism Mean The End Of Newsrooms?

AI companies such as Automated Insights, Narrative Science or Yseop are already developing and delivering such algorithms, chatbots, and …
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In a time where global newsrooms are becoming smaller due to enhanced technological advancement, robotics journalism has emerged as a threat to the fourth estate. Artificial Intelligence has introduced a new paradigm in present-day journalism and newsrooms across the globe are facing fears of staff cuts. Automated journalism has already made its way into newsrooms with automated news writing and distribution, without human supervision already a reality.

‘Jia Jia ‘was the first humanoid robot journalist created by developers from the University of Science and Technology in China’s Anhui province in April. She hit headlines when she reported for the country’s news agency Xinhua and conducted a live interview with an editor of a popular tech magazine.

More recently, an upgraded version of this robotic journalist Zhang Zhou was witnessed in Chinese News Channel. Their official news network claimed it to be the world’s first artificial intelligence news anchor.


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Innovations In Robotic Journalism

In robotic journalism, also called automated journalism or algorithmic journalism, news articles are generated by computer programs and AI software, rather than human reporters. Voice, tone, and style can also be customised depending on the desired output.

  • AI companies such as Automated Insights, Narrative Science or Yseop are already developing and delivering such algorithms, chatbots, and automated reporting systems to newsrooms around the globe. Hold your breath: these robots can produce a story in just a matter of a second.
  • The AP, for example, began publishing articles for earnings reports last year, using a software from Automated Insights. The Associated Press published a short financial news story: “Apple tops Street IQ forecasts”. The piece could be easily written by a human – but if someone reads it until the end, they would see that it was generated by Automated Insights or what we call a robotic journalist.
  • One of the projects bringing artificial intelligence to newsrooms is INJECT, an AI-based tool making it easier to find original angles to a story.
  • The Norwegian News Agency (NTB) started work on a project to generate automated football news coverage, which was launched in 2016. Together with experts in artificial intelligence, a group of journalists learned new skills whilst the robot was being “trained”, a decision crucial to the development of the algorithm.
  • Thomson Reuters is also already using machine learning algorithms to write their stories.
  • Google, on its side, has provided the British news agency Press Association with a $1 million grant to develop a computer program able to gather and write nearly 30,000 stories a month — a volume impossible to match manually.

Will AI Take Over Journalism Jobs Completely?

  • There are several benefits using a machine. For example, robots can act as an assistant, such as for writing up press releases, data-driven stories.
  • They are even able to conduct face-to-face interviews and but cannot ask follow-up questions, craft a colourful feature story and in-depth analysis, or shoot and edit a package for TV broadcast.
  • By automating routine stories and tasks, journalists can free up time for more challenging jobs such as covering events and investigative reporting.
  • It also paves the way for greater efficiency and cost-cutting measures for news organisations struggling to survive. Robot journalism is cheaper because large quantities of content can be produced at quicker speeds.
  • Apart from fears about even more job cuts in the media industry, there are obvious concerns about the credibility and quality of automated journalism and the use of algorithms.
  • AI cannot replace human skills such as creativity, humour, or critical thinking in the newsroom, which are all crucial aspects for the media professional.

Outlook

Although, to date, there are no reports on robotic journalism affecting the job prospects in the Asian market, as per Laurence Dierickx, journalist and a research, it has started showing its effects in European countries. Dierickx released a few figures on how many are expected to lose their jobs as a result of AI till now.

Other prospective studies also say that more journalists are likely to be affected (International Data Corporation 2016 and Ericsson 2017) but at the same time, these studies underline that jobs involving human interface will be preserved. According to Dierickx, there are a lot of contradictions, and no one can predict the future. But with automated journalism gaining ground in newsrooms, 2019 will prove to be a critical year for Journalism and Media.

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