Dubbed robot journalism, automated reporting is the use of computers or software to create news stories without the help of human reporters. To me, it is a development that seeks to ROB aspiring journalists like me of the careers we are studying towards. Whether we like it or not, it is here to stay and companies worldwide are buying into the idea of automated news.
Machines are PROGRAMMED to do what humans are TAUGHT to do. I am a human being. Any writer will tell you what long and strenuous exercise writing can be. To write an article for example, you need to know what you’re talking about and be able to back it up. Even after it has been written, the long hours of editing are another process themselves. Well, machines have it all figured out. Using data and algorithms, they can easily produce 3 different stories in seconds. Who am I to compete with that?!
They collect data from predetermined sources and determine key news writing elements such as newsworthiness, objectivity and accuracy. They then produce and publish the story. This they do faster, cheaper and with fewer (if any) errors than humans do, even though is said that readers complain that software-generated stories are boring and read like a textbook.
Where does that leave the future of journalism? One of the world’s most prominent and oldest news organisations the Associated Press (AP) was reported to be producing 3000 computer-generated stories a month in January 2015. They are not reducing staff, but how long is that going to last? It is not impossible for news organisations to decide that they are making more money through automated reporting than they are through journalists. It could even create tough competition for journalists in other organisations and put pressure on more and more of them to invite it into their newsrooms.
Readers perceive automated news as more credible than those written by humans, especially when it comes to stories where they are just looking for the main facts or figures. With the current statistics on this mode of journalism, we have a situation where companies are generating more news, at a faster rate and with fewer people to pay. Matt Carlson from Saint Louis University says:
“I don’t think we’re going to see robots writing the front page of the New York Times… but what I think we’ll see is a hybrid approach where robots are writing part of a story and humans are writing”.
Experts say that in the future, robots and humans will have a marriage-like journalistic relationship where they do all the research and data-handling, leaving the writing to the pros. These stories will be limited to sports, earthquakes, and those types of stories. Robot journalism will cut down a lot of costs and this can only be a postive thing for big organisations.
Maybe robots won’t steal our jobs like they have in industries like mechanical engineering or agriculture. Maybe journalism is too “different” to be compared to these industries.The biggest nightmare of any employee in any industry should be getting replaced by a computer. It should be being asked to help a computer do THEIR job and taking the blame when it makes a mistake. I don’t want to spend my career proof-reading! Journalists may end up being limited to mostly doing research and investigative journalism. I do not look forward to having software as a colleague but it is unfortunately something we cannot run away from.