Man-machine marriage in newsrooms likely

In an age where basic news reports can be written by algorithms, is the reporter going to become obsolete? The Tow Center’s new Guide to Automated Journalism offers advice for those contemplating a career in news – and gives a few pointers for news organisations looking at software solutions for content generation.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | January 8, 2016

Big news organisations such as the Associated PressThe Los Angeles Times and Forbes have demonstrated the value of automating the writing of formulaic reports.

Thousands of corporate earnings reports, sports results and crime reports are being generated automatically, at great speed, freeing up staff to concentrate on more meaningful tasks.

Automated journalism offers a rare win for newsrooms, reducing reporting costs while increasing the volume and accuracy of content. But as the automated solutions and software get smarter, what does this mean for journalists?

See also: The rise of the robots

The Tow guide released Friday suggests that automated journalism will likely replace journalists who merely cover routine topics, where clean, accurate and structured data is available. But it will also generate new jobs within the development of news-generating algorithms.

Journalists thinking about the future should focus on developing ‘skills that algorithms cannot perform, such as in-depth analysis, interviewing and investigative reporting’.

The researchers foresee a “man-machine marriage” where human and automated journalism become closely integrated.

The future for automated content looks secure, and development is taking place to generate stories in multiple languages, and from different angles, enabling personalization and generation of content on demand.

There are limitations:

“Algorithms cannot ask questions, explain new phenomena, or establish causality and are thus limited in their ability to observe society and to fulfill journalistic tasks, such as orientation and public opinion formation.”

The report unpacks the implications for news organisations and society of algorithm generated news reports.

Download the report.


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