Last week, the Australian edition of The Guardian posted an article with no byline. The data-driven report was the first of its kind for the publication for one intriguing reason: It was written by a robot.
The article stated at the end:
“This story was generated by ReporterMate, an experimental automated news reporting system.”
Robot reporters are becoming more and more ubiquitous in another instance of technology transforming the landscape of journalism.
The reports—like the one in The Guardian, which reported on donations to political parties—are data-driven. They can analyze large amounts of numbers and information, distilling these with greater ease and accuracy than a human reporter. Considering the interference of Russian “bots” in the 2016 election, it’s understandable that robot reports carry a negative connotation to some, but news executives insist that the development isn’t a negative one and that distinctly human skills are now being put to greater use.
Lisa Gibbs, the director of news partnerships for the Associated Press, told the New York Times:
“The work of journalism is creative, it’s about curiosity, it’s about storytelling, it’s about digging and holding governments accountable, it’s critical thinking, it’s judgment — and that is where we want our journalists spending their energy.”
In what may come as a surprise, a growing number of journalists and media workers are getting on board.
Sweden/Finland are utilizing robots to write articles over sports, weather, etc Robots can’t replace ambitious and talented journalists; they make their jobs easier. Automation makes investigative journalism possible. Uses AI and NLG to have language to suit the reader. pic.twitter.com/JuyIiF5lr3
— khue (@bonkhuekhue) March 14, 2018
Why are journalists often talking about robots when it comes to the use of AI in newsrooms? Maybe because it's easier to frame the story emotionally as humanoids taking away the jobs of human reporters? Ping @stgrubenmann https://t.co/zPcNCxH5d9
— Colin Porlezza (@herdingbehavior) February 5, 2019
Don't worry about that robot taking your job, it's just doing the stuff you didn't really want to. And with no typos! https://t.co/QUxy3vk3Xi
— Hasani Gittens (@hgitty) February 5, 2019
I've noticed most articles on automation & AI put workers on the defensive.
ie: "How to prevent robots from taking your job."
But, what if we reframed the convo to focus on tasks…
What if anything "dull, dirty or dangerous" was no longer part of the job?
— Brianne Kimmel (@briannekimmel) January 14, 2019
But as journalistic institutions resort to massive layoffs at an alarming rate, some think the technology could pose a threat in a news cycle that’s moving faster than ever before.