How May I Assist You?
Digital Studio|November 2020
Will robots replace journalists in the days to come?
Anisha Gakhar
Journalism is a creative profession. It involves the seamless amalgamation of human elements such as emotion, judgement, 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.

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 organisations 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 generation of news articles by computer programs. Through artificial intelligence (AI) software, stories are produced automatically by computers rather than human reporters. These programs interpret, organise, 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 customised to fit a certain voice, tone, or style.

AI can also help journalists analyse 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.

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 organisations 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 recognise a large number of people and their names, which is required in any news business. That being said, the processing and analysis of data is not enough. It is important to represent and interpret the data appropriately, given the large amount of data accessible today.

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