The impact of Artificial Intelligence on journalism

Robots may be able to fulfil the same roles as humans or even do better than us in future. What future role will they play in journalism? Image: Pixabay

The significance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is expected to grow in years to come. Newsrooms are already embracing AI in various ways.

According to a Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) report, Journalism, Media, and Technology Trends and Predictions 2018, this includes summarising data into news articles. AI is also used to learn readers’ online behaviour, adjust their news feeds according to audience interests and to help journalists clarify political claims.

UCT Professor and Director of the Centre for Artificial Intelligence Research, Thomas Meyer, thinks journalistic robots and journalists will continue to co-exist for the foreseeable future. He says as is the case with most technologies, the best way to view robots is as increasingly sophisticated and useful tools for journalists.

“This type of co-existence is unlikely to change drastically in our lifetime,” said Professor Meyer.

The RISJ report says one of the benefits newsrooms experience from AI, by means of apps, is driving finer content suggestions on websites. One example is James, a new recommendation service developed by the New York and Sunday Times. James will study readers’ preferences and populate their news feeds according to their likes.

AI has the potential to assist journalists fact-check political claims quickly while they manage live radio or TV interviews. The report notes that AI will not replace journalists completely but will play the role of an assistant that will complete tasks such as arranging meetings and handling diaries.

Multimedia Manager at frayintermedia Campbell Easton believes the use of AI will cut jobs in the newsroom.

“This certainly means unemployed professionals and less of a human touch on our news. On the other hand, it is likely to make newsrooms cheaper and more efficient to operate.”

A Reuters community article notes three key aspects about AI in journalism. These include the fact that AI needs human expertise to interpret and rectify results. Instead of improving the quality of news AI will enlarge the quantity covered. Lastly, credible journalists are needed to write purposeful stories because of the difficulty of programming narratives.

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