There has never been a time in human history where journalism has been more important. As the world spins faster and faster into change, a greater and greater number of people are turning to the news to keep pace with the times. And that’s just what journalists do—they report on what’s happening around them.
As automation moves mainstream in journalistic production, there’s never been a better time for journalists to look at all the methods available to meet the huge challenges of their trade. Until recently, journalism as practiced was about much more than writing for the web or for a specific publication.
It was about making hay out of technologies that came along 25 years ago and hasn’t changed much since. But it wasn’t that long ago that publishers discovered that blog posts and newsletters written by hand were not only faster and more efficient but provided better information to readers than other forms of journalism.
What Is Automated Journalism
Automated journalism is a system of tools and processes that use computer automation to write news at a rapid pace as well as provide more professional-quality reporting than previous methods.
Automated journalism involves the use of an editorial workflow, automated writing software and a content management system to automate traditional publishing skills such as reporter sourcing and narrative storytelling.
It costs between $250 and $4,800 a year to access these sites, according to a report by consulting company Gartner. Many people often get confused about the difference between automated journalism, content automation and news automation.
In fact, automated journalism is different from news automation which involves the use of various scripts or programs to reorder existing published news or republish information. This can be done by simply taking an RSS feed from a website and copying its text into an article in another publication’s CMS.
At the heart of automated journalism is content automation. When published, the finished article will contain the same content as it did when initially posted on the wire service or RSS feed.
When reading an article, the reader will see exactly what was originally published with no changes at all. This means that articles are 100% original and cannot be altered or changed in any way whatsoever. In order to publish an article, a journalist simply needs to click one button and an automated workflow can be set into motion.
Importance Of Automated Journalism
If we look at automation in a purely ethical sense, it is something that is a threat to the human rights of journalists. Automated journalism would have the potential to harm the media if not properly monitored and policed.
In order to automate reporting on Swiss election results, Swiss media company Tamedia chose this approach. An automated system being used as an alternative to human journalists could either be beneficial or harmful to an individual’s ability to make a career from journalism.
While it is not possible to predict exactly how the adoption of automated journalism will affect society, the fact that there are so many unknown factors makes it difficult for anyone to make accurate predictions about how this will occur.
As such, it can be said that automation of newsrooms has the potential for extreme positive or negative outcomes for humans in the media.
Benefits Of Automated Journalism
As AI-driven, automated journalism is increasing in popularity, more and more news organizations are using it for a variety of different types of stories leading to more research on how audiences feel about it.
Automated journalism or “robot journalism” is being employed not only by the Washington Post but also by other major news organizations, including Associated Press (AP), USA Today, and Yahoo! Journalist from Austria Alexander Fanta discovered in 2017 that the majority of European news organisations have adopted automation.
Automated journalism refers to the production of news articles by machines or computer programs. Quality and Trustworthiness Concerns regarding the perceived trustworthiness of automated news are comparable to general concerns about news credibility.
Automated journalism is most useful in generating routine news stories for repetitive topics for which clean, accurate, and structured data are available. Stories are generated automatically by computers rather than by human reporters thanks to artificial intelligence ( AI ) technologies.
1. Efficient Workflow Produces Superior Content
The efficiency of automated journalism workflow is one of its biggest benefits. Thanks to the use of a website publishing platform or CMS, an editorial team can quickly set up a process that moves from idea to published article in less than an hour.
An article doesn’t go through any hands at all. All work is done inside the CMS and only the final piece gets published on a website.
An editorial team will use software called a content automation tool to build a newsroom article right inside the CMS, adding all relevant information and writing text once and then publishing an article. This process is done in under an hour, and the resulting articles are ready for publication.
In addition, automated publishing of news stories is much faster than traditional methods. A content automation tool can produce an article text as quickly as an editor can fill out a form with information about the news story.
These tools usually have a scheduling option so journalists can schedule stories to be published at different times of the day or week and even on specific dates at specific times.
2. Better Research And Reporting
While journalists are writing articles that are 100% original, it is possible for them to make use of existing published content. The CMS will have a database of information and the newsroom article can be based on any piece of information that has already been published.
This is much more efficient than using a reporter to collect every scrap of relevant information about a story before it’s written. Because the article is created automatically, there will be no bias at all from sources outside the newsroom.
As well as being able to make full use of this existing published data, journalists will be able to expand the depth of their reporting with public records or background information contained in databases and data files.
3. Faster Reporting And Shorter Lead Time
On the other hand, journalists will be able to publish a news story much faster than they used to. The process of acquiring information before writing an article is considerably shortened.
As well as having a full toolset to copy and paste information from any source into the content, journalists should also be able to take advantage of existing databases and files containing vast amounts of data that can be quickly accessed and used in news stories.
4. More Accurate Reporting
When someone is writing an article by hand, they need to clear up every possible point of confusion with their sources. This is most likely an impossible task as every source is likely to give different viewpoints on the same topic.
This can be extremely frustrating for the journalist who finally has to make a decision about how to present the information in a news story. If they don’t clear up all the confusion and instead use different bits of information, it’s easy to see how this could lead to an inaccurate news story.
Automated journalism is much more likely to result in accurate reporting because every source is going to be represented in the article exactly as it was published by them. This ensures that there are no misunderstandings and no bias or spin put onto stories by journalists.
5. Journalists Can Spend More Time On Other Tasks
The only business that has used large layoffs as part of a “fully automated” transition is software giant Microsoft at its MSN News service. Automated journalism not only speeds up newsroom operations but also frees up journalists’ time for other activities.
Automated journalism workflow will be able to produce an article without the need for a journalist to check all the sources or perform any research. This will save a large amount of time and allow journalists to concentrate on tasks that are more important than simply writing articles.
For example, it’s possible that editorial teams could focus more on in-depth analysis or local reporting and create stories with a deeper meaning rather than just publishing information about random events. Maybe this could also lead to a higher quality of content for readers?
6. No Human Intervention
This isn’t a new concept by any means. Journalists have been using computers to write articles for ages and the same principles are still being used today. We’re still printing newspaper articles on paper rather than on a computer screen, but the technology that allows us to do this has improved a great deal over the years.
The fact that automated journalism will be able to quickly produce news stories in a way that is very similar to how they began their life will not necessarily mean that it is unnecessary. It could simply mean that automation produces better results than the traditional editor-based system used by journalists today.
7. More Information Available
A benefit that could be brought by automated journalism is that a whole lot more information will be available to journalists. It seems likely that automated journalism will provide access to information that was previously impossible or impractical to obtain.
For example, it would be possible for newsrooms using automated journalism processes to quickly get access to all public data sets so they can build stories around specific figures or statistics. This is something that has huge potential for developing in the future as the benefits of being able to quickly go through large amounts of data are obvious.
8. Eradicate Bias
This should be a no-brainer. When journalists are able to automatically find and use existing information, they’ll have no need to be biased towards a particular viewpoint. If a journalist is in the newsroom writing an article it’s unlikely that they would have any bias towards their employer or the source for the information for that story.
However, if that same journalist if writing an article about how much alcohol is drunk in France and the data from the government statistics office happened to show that it was higher than anywhere else on Earth, there is a very high chance that this article would be heavily slanted against alcohol being legalised.
Risks Of Automated Journalism
Natural language generation is a technology that enables computers to generate human-like text. It is used to create in-depth analyses of data, generate automated insights from news stories, and produce earnings reports.
When The Guardian released a paragraph wholly authored by GPT-3, a language generator created by American company OpenAI, the controversy was re-ignited in September 2020. Routine news stories are becoming increasingly artificial as investigative reporting is replaced by fake news.
The news production process is being automated by algorithms that select and package stories for mass consumption. This trend is worrying for those who value quality journalism.
Journalists today aren’t always sure where their next job is going to be. If the job of a journalist changes, it can lead to fear for their future prospects. This can lead to stress and anxiety which impacts their performance at work.
The same could be said for an automated newsroom that needs to produce lots of content in a short space of time. If the journalists and editors suddenly found themselves out of work, this could create an atmosphere of panic among staff in the newsroom.
It’s possible that people would lose track as to what was important and what wasn’t just because they were this nervous about their future employment prospects.
2. Less Control
Journalists very often feel the need to take control of a story, even if it’s just for the sake of it. They are familiar with how news stories are structured and can often get frustrated when that isn’t followed.
For example, if a journalist writes an article about car manufacturing and includes some statistics at the start of the article that are not related to anything else in the story, they will manually copy and paste those statistics in their entirety into the body of text.
This is probably because they don’t want their readers to lose track of what was said earlier on in the article. However, this may have little impact on whether or not readers can understand and remember what was written.
If the article is written in an automated fashion, then there is no scope for human intervention. It will be entirely up to the system as to what information is included in each individual article.
Therefore, journalists who are used to controlling their stories may feel a loss of control over the content that they are creating and their audience may take on a different approach to what was originally intended for them.
3. Writing Style Changes
The writing style that journalists use could become a lot more casual and informal than it currently is. Journalists often feel the need to make sure that their articles sound perfect and this can sometimes result in convoluted sentences and lots of unnecessary phrases.
When automated journalism is used, this will no longer be an issue and it may be possible that journalists will not be so focused on their writing style. They may stop caring so much about what they are writing because they’ll have a lot more time to spend on other tasks.
4. Lack Of Support
According to Fernando Zamith, a former journalist and professor at the University of Porto, “Accuracy demands proper verification. Robots can’t always do it properly. There is a good likelihood that in the event of widespread automation, the extremely low staffing levels that already exist in many newsrooms won’t alter.
It’s likely that highly trained humans who work in newsrooms already may not find work easily if automation replaces them completely. The problem might also be compounded by additional burdens such as the need for journalists to check sources and write editorials from scratch.
5. Dismissed By Public
It’s possible that in the event of the automated journalism process being implemented, the public would become less interested in news stories. If people found out about automation taking over journalists, they may feel that it would be a threat to their freedom of speech and free press.
This could lead to a negative reaction from the public who don’t want to pay for news that isn’t coming from a human journalist at all times. They might turn away and form an opinion on what they would have been reading if it was written by an automated system.
6. Conflict Of Interests
Automated journalism systems will have to make decisions based on what they’ve found within the vast data they’re provided with.
As automated journalism systems are not likely to be programmed with conflict-of-interests rules, there is a high chance that the information will conflict with other government sources or private companies that have an interest in media coverage.
Even though newsrooms may have policies about not paying for information or being biased in their reporting, these can easily be broken by automated journalism systems if they aren’t monitored and enforced properly by journalists.
7. No Social Media Presence
A lack of social media presence could also be a problem for automated newsrooms. Many newsrooms have set up social media channels as a way to publicise the content that they’ve written and engage with their readers directly.
If newsrooms do not have access to social media, there is a possibility that they are missing out on the opportunity to communicate with their readers in new ways and thus may lose them.
8. Lack Of Personal Touch
The removal of human interaction in an automated newsroom could lead people to feel like they aren’t getting the personal attention that they might want in a newsroom setting or just in general life as well. This could have the opposite effect of what is intended.
Automation could result in newsrooms losing human touch and becoming stale and uninteresting to some people who would normally be interested in the news.
While there are many potential problems that can arise with automated journalism, it’s worth noting that there are plenty of benefits as well. One of the most significant is that the newsroom would only need to be staffed with journalists who are focused on writing articles and actively looking for new stories to cover.
They could also keep track of their subscribers’ behaviour and use this data to make changes in their system or modify information based on which articles people have read.
A fully automated newsroom could also have a lot more time for content generation because scripts for every article would already be written by the system with full attention paid to making sure they were perfect and up to date.