Automated journalism – how AI is disrupting journalism

What is AI?

AI stands for artificial intelligence – the buzzword that we constantly hear and is associated with disrupting countless industries around the world. So, what exactly is it? 

AI uses machine learning to enable computers and software to learn, adapt, and perform human-like tasks. Programs that use artificial intelligence start off by analyzing huge amounts of data, and then every time they are presented with new information or patterns, they are able to apply that knowledge to what they already learned.

A great example of artificial intelligence is the digital assistant on the iPhone, Siri. It utilizes machine learning to understand and respond to questions, as well as assist phone users in carrying out basic functions. Another commonly encountered AI is a chatbot on a merchant website that assists you with product searches and checkouts, with the goal of providing a better shopping experience.

How AI is impacting journalism

According to a study conducted by Narrative Science, a bot could be writing 90% of all news stories by 2025 – a staggering number that would have a huge impact on journalism.

Automated journalism involves articles and news reports written by computer programs through the use of AI and machine learning. The software behind these bots is able to interpret and organize data in a way that can be presented just like a news article, so long as it is fed data and given direction as to the template or structure of the article. 

For example, a bot could be given information about a baseball game and it would then look at the major details, names, and places to organize it into a pre-programmed article with a predefined structure, key points, and tone.

You may be thinking does this mean that journalists and reporters will soon be obsolete? Definitely not anytime soon. Since automated journalism is based on a formula, it can only really be used for reports based on numbers and statistics like weather, financial reports, or sports recaps. Even then, journalists still need to tell the bot what to write about and verify that the article that comes out it readable and accurate. 

One of the biggest benefits of AI in journalism is the ability of AI to complete monotonous and time-consuming tasks like creating recording transcripts and translating reports into multiple languages. This would free up time for journalists to focus on more important stories that require additional investigation or in-depth analysis. An automated system could also easily listen to multiple news conferences at one time to determine if there is any breaking news. 

There are some drawbacks to automated journalism as well, including concerns about credibility and quality. There are questions as to whether an algorithm can provide subjective, fair, and accurate reporting, and if they can be unfairly influenced by programmers. Bots also tend to lack creativity and critical-thinking skills so the reports produced may be monotone or impersonal. Lastly, there is confusion on who should be credited for the story – should it be the programmer, the reporter that verified the article, or the news organization as a whole?

Examples of Automated Journalism Today

While you may not realize it, automated journalism is already very prevalent in the news and reporting industry, with major news names already taking advantage of machine learning and artificial intelligence. 

Bloomberg, for example, has a program called Cyborg which has produced thousands of articles that took financial reports and used them to create news stories. In fact, they estimate that AI has been involved in producing close to 30% of their content within the last year. Cyborg is able to listen to earnings reports and very quickly put together a headline and bullet-point story, leaving more time for reporters to get quotes from analysts and dig deeper if necessary.

The Washington Post has a similar robot called Heliograf that produced over 850 articles in its first year. They view the AI program not as a way to replace journalists, but rather as a tool to assist them in making their jobs more efficient and accurate.

Another example is The Associated Press, which began using automation to cover minor league baseball games. Their program was able to cover 10,000 games in one year and use statistics to create sports news stories.

Final thoughts

Automated journalism is a great opportunity to make journalism more efficient and effective while providing journalists more time for complex tasks and stories. AI and machine learning are here to stay, so it is important to stay up to date with the technology that can help improve your business.Work with a consultant to analyze your current business processes and tasks to see if AI and machine learning can be used to prepare your firm for the future and propel it ahead of the competition.