The Financial Times reported yesterday (12th Dec.) that the first articles jointly written by robots and humans are being published in the UK. In fact, the robot’s contribution seems to be largely that of fact-finder, providing statistical data for journalists’ articles.
The general opinion seems to be that the robots are providing a useful service and obtaining data that journalists might not otherwise have found, but humans will still be needed for the editorial process.
In February this year Wired wrote an article on the implications of “news-writing bots” for journalism. In their article “AI journalism” seems to have gone several steps further, the suggestion being that it could “generate explanatory, insightful articles”. It could be very helpful. Automated fact-finders could be a useful method by which to quickly identify fake news by scouring social media and calculating credibility of emerging stories. In the US, the software seemed to be, in the main, useful for doing number-crunching for election news which saved a lot of time, but it hasn’t always proved accurate. The hope is that “AI journalism” could free up human journalists to write the articles that require real analysis and “human thought”.
In both cases, the media is anxious to stress that human input is not being replaced, but that journalist time is being saved. I should imagine – as is so often the case with technology – time will certainly be saved for some articles, but new issues will arise that require careful sanity-checking and that will take time.
This could be quite disruptive for journalists, changing the way they search for information, and for some types of news it sounds like a very interesting move, but I can’t help thinking that there might be some really good material generated for Radio 4’s The News Quiz, which always likes to finish with a selection of unintentionally funny quotes from newspapers.