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Robo-journalism on the rise in race to break stories, cut costs


Major outlets increasingly rely on artificial intelligence to report news

An A-Lab Co. Mirai Madoka humanoid robot on Jan. 16, 2019. (Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images)

Media outlets the world over are increasingly utilizing artificial intelligence in the race to break stories at a faster, cheaper rate than their competitors.

With several robo-journalism options available and firms edging for market share, the increasing capabilities of machines are encroaching further on the territory of human editors and reporters across all platforms.

What are the details?

Software-generated reports are heavy utilized in areas where quick figures are needed such as in financial journalism, sports statistics, and analyzing polling or other data. According to the New York Times, Bloomberg News uses automated technology in roughly a third of its content, racing against Reuters and even hedge funds to compete in delivering the latest business news.

Media executives insist that artificial intelligence is not a threat to human employees because machines cannot produce analyses and perspectives. But robo-journalism is capable of generating more than just numbers — with publications such Forbes using tools to provide templates and rough drafts to reporters, and the Los Angeles Times using machines to issue earthquake alerts and bots for mapping analyses.

Outlets in China and Japan have even introduced robot news anchors.

NewScientist noted five years ago that "quite a few machines already write the news" and pointed to a study that determined that while "software-generated content is perceived as descriptive and boring, it is also considered to be objective although not necessarily discernible from content written by journalists."

The end of fake news?

Robo-journalism could serve as an antidote to so-called fake news. Utilizing artificial intelligence to generate stories has the potential to reduce human error and sway — churning out just-the-facts, typo-free articles.

It does take human work on the front end to set up an algorithm to produce stories, but using machines to hunt anomalies and assist with (or take on) investigative reporting could be on the horizon.

Francesco Marconi, head of research and development at the Wall Street Journal told the Times, "Maybe a few years ago A.I. was this shiny new technology used by high tech companies, but now it's actually becoming a necessity. I think a lot of the tools in journalism will soon be powered by artificial intelligence."

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