Robo-journalist || Will robots replace journalists in the days to come?

Robo-journalist does not seem creative although Journalism is a creative profession. It involves the seamless amalgamation of human elements such as emotion, judgment, tone, and expression.

  • However, there is a trend that has caught up across verticals—writing algorithms/ templates have been widely employed across newsrooms and media houses, to produce articles and thereby replace human journalists.
  • In 2016, Wordsmith, one of the news-writing algorithms, wrote and published 1.5 billion news stories.
  • This number is comparable to or may even exceed work written and published by human journalists.

How automated Robo-journalist help us?

  • Automation, though, is based on formulae and a precise set of rules, hence, is mainly used for stories based on statistics and numerical figures; sports recaps, weather, financial reports, real estate analysis, and earnings reviews are some examples.
  • Automated journalism helps take over routine tasks so that manpower is left to focus on creative complex tasks.
  • It also allows efficiency and cost-cutting, alleviating some financial burden that many news organizations face.
  • However, automated journalism is also perceived as a threat to the authorship and quality of news and the uncertainty of employment within the industry.
  • Robotic journalism facilitates the generation of news articles by computer programs.

How AI can help to build Robo-journalist?

  • Through artificial intelligence (AI) software, stories are produced automatically by computers rather than human reporters.
  • These programs interpret, organize, and present data in human-readable ways.
  • Typically, the process involves an algorithm that scans large amounts of provided data, selects from an assortment of pre-programmed article structures, orders key points, and inserts details such as names, places, amounts, rankings, statistics, and other figures.
  • The output can also be customized to fit a certain voice, tone, or style.
  • AI can also help journalists analyze large quantities of data and detect trends based on multiple sources of information varying from conventional open sources to new sources.
  • Many of the largest and most reputable news outlets in the world are using robotics and AI in their TV studios, where robotic camera systems are replacing human crews.
  • The trend began in the 1990s, and the entire live production chain at broadcast stations and networks are increasingly being automated ever since.

How Robo-journalist process data and databases?

The search, processing, and analysis of data is the most useful application of algorithms in journalism.

  • The benefit of withdrawing relevant data from a database is that it makes a journalist’s job of finding correlations and causations, easy.
  • For example, news organizations are using applications that auto-detect the faces of sports players or members of a political party by their photos.
  • This face-recognition technique is especially useful when it is humanly impossible to remember and recognize a large number of people and their names, which is required in any news business.
  • That being said, the processing and analysis of data are not enough. It is important to represent and interpret the data appropriately, given a large amount of data accessible today.

An Interesting Example of Robo-journalism:

The following instance is a well-known example in the history of robotic journalism. According to https://www.mediaeducationcentre.eu/eng/ on 17th March 2014, Ken Schwencke, journalist and programmer of the Los Angeles Times (LAT), was jolted awake by an earthquake. He rushed to his laptop, where he found an e-mail notification sent to him by an algorithm named Quakebot. It read:

L.A. Now: Ready for copyediting: Earthquake: 4.7 quake strikes near Westwood, California

This is a robot post from your friendly earthquake robot. Please copyedit & publish the story. You can find the story at […]

If the city referenced in the headline is relatively unknown, but the earthquake occurred close to another, a larger city, please alter the headline and body text to put that information first.

I am currently not smart enough to make these decisions on my own and rely on the help of intelligent humans such as yourselves.

Thanks! Quakebot.

Checkout here google’s Earthquake detection system article.

The ready-to-publish post read:

A shallow magnitude 4.7 earthquake was reported Monday morning five miles from Westwood, California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 6:25 a.m. Pacific time at a depth of 5.0 miles.

According to the USGS, the epicenter was six miles from Beverly Hills, California, seven miles from Universal City, California, seven miles from Santa Monica, California, and 348 miles from Sacramento, California. In the past 10 days, there have been no earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and greater centered nearby.

This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service, and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author.

Read more about Southern California earthquakes.

Schwencke thought it looked good, set it live, and sent out a tweet. Quakebot pulled data (place, time, the magnitude of earthquakes) from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earthquake Notification Service.

  • Then, the robot compared this data to previous earthquakes in this area and defined ‘the historic significance’ of the event.
  • The data were then inserted into suitable sentence patterns, and the news report was ready.
  • The robot uploaded it into the content management system and sent a note to the editor.

The story of successful Robo-Journalist?

  • Thus, the LAT became the first media outlet to report on the earthquake—eight minutes after the tremor struck and much earlier than any human journalists managed to report.
  • The intern Robo-journalist had outrun its bio-colleagues. This earthquake report was far from being worthy of a Pulitzer.
  • However, it allowed an editor to publish a news story minutes after the event happened.
  • Again, despite a few errors, it is easy to comprehend the gist of the story.
  • It is in fact comparable to using Google Translate to convert this into a different language, another robot we probably didn’t think was a robot.

Will Robots Replace Humans?

I’d argue that robots might not replace humans. As aforementioned, humans possess qualities that a computer might never be able to mimic.

  • Yes, it is safe to say that human work will be hybridized— blended together with algorithms—to suit ​AI’s capabilities and accommodate its limitations. Let’s call this augmentation, rather than substitution.
  • As we move into a networked society, the software will continue to supplement journalists and provide a helping hand for media companies.
  • They will work together to do a better job and maximize limited resources by automating processes, carrying out routine work, providing a presence across multiple locations, and conducting data research, all while cutting costs and increasing profit margin for media companies.
  • Some estimates suggest that current levels of AI technology could automate only about 15% of a reporter’s job and 9% of an editor’s job.

What about responding, negotiating with sources?

  • Reporting, listening, responding, negotiating with sources, and then having the creativity to put it together—a robot can do none of these indispensable journalistic tasks.
  • It can often augment human work, though, to help people work faster or with improved quality.
  • And it can create new opportunities for deepening news coverage and making it more personalized for an individual reader or viewer.

What are the limited works Robo-journalist can do?

  • Robotics in media could also give birth to new concepts. Take, for instance, the use of computer vision AI techniques to label the thousands of news photos it handles every day.
  • The system can tag photos with information about what or who is in an image, its photographic style, and whether an image is depicting graphic violence.
  • However, this, too, comes with its set of limitations. An editor will have to figure out what to tag and whether the algorithms were up to the task, supervise and manually approve the suggested tags for each image to ensure high accuracy.

Many news companies pump out thousands of local news articles, using a system, which relies on journalists finding data sets tabulated by geographic area, identify interesting and newsworthy angles, and then developing those ideas into data-driven templates.

  • The templates encode how to automatically tailor bits of the text to the geographic locations identified in the data.
  • This technique marries journalists and automation into an effective and productive process. The journalists use their expertise and communication skills to lay out options for storylines the data might follow.
  • They also talk to sources to gather national context and write the template.
  • The automation then acts as a production assistant, adapting the text for different locations.
  • Authoring interfaces allow for logically structuring compelling storylines and crafting creative, non-repetitive text.

All in all, supervision, management, editing, and assembly of automated content is imperative to maintaining the quality and accuracy in journalism.

Pros and Cons of Robo-journalist?

  • While robots may fare well in speed tests and accuracy in grammar, they might have some weaknesses that can’t be ignored.
  • Robotic journalism, no matter how complex an algorithm is used, might never be able to emulate the nature of human emotions and feelings.
  • Automation can only scour the internet for information that already exists, but it cannot create or improvise, which humans do almost subconsciously.
  • Satires, spoof, irony, humor, are elements that give a story a human touch.
  • Yes, a bot can help report that event A led to event B, but it cannot gauge that both events might actually be pointing towards a larger cultural shift or trend, aka, event C.
  • It might even be difficult for a robot to judge if a given piece of the story is news or an advertisement.
  • Human interference is required, when it comes to taking calls and calling a spade, a spade. And of course, robo-journalist can’t assume accountability for anything because, at the end of the day, they’re not accountable for anything; the people who create and program them are. And the biggest threat of them all—security.
  • As with all other technological innovations, automated news software certainly has the potential to be hacked.

In other words, bots are great but do come with some potential cons. The work of journalism is creative, it’s about curiosity, it’s about storytelling, and it’s about digging, judgment, and critical thinking.

Robots could very well aid humans in doing what is repetitive and formulaic, but until the day AI is much better than humans in judgment and interpretation, we will need human intervention and supervision. The human shall have the last word!

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