Seeing Automation As Opportunity, Not The End

As if journalists needed anything more to worry about, robots look poised to begin a gradual takeover of basic newswriting tasks.

The discussion surrounding robot, or automated, journalism has fired up this summer, following The Associated Press’ (AP) announcement that the majority of U.S. corporate earnings stories will go automated, thought-provoking pieces by Nieman Lab and the Guardian, and discussions at the Global Editors Network regarding automated journalism launching in Europe as early as next year.


The concept of automated journalism first gained widespread attention this March, after an earthquake provided an early wake-up call to the residents of Beverly Hills, California at 6:25 a.m. TheĀ Los Angeles TimesĀ had a story about the quake on their website up as quickly as three minutes later, according to Ken Schwenke, the reporter who’s byline accompanied the story.

How? The brief had been written by Quakebot, a program that extracts information from the U.S. Geological Survey, plugs it into a pre-configured template, and then pushes it onto the Times‘ content management system, where it waits for Schwenke to publish it.

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State of the Journalism Industry – Highlights from the AEJMC

I have the fortunate opportunity to be spending this weekend in Washington, D.C., as I have been invited to the annual conference put on by the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication to present one of my papers.

This afternoon I was able to attend the conference highlight I was most looking forward to, a panel discussion on the state of the industry featuring Tom Rosenstiel of the American Press Institute; Jim Brady, who is editor-in-chief of Digital First Media and president of the Online News Association; Rob Mennie of Gannett Broadcasting; Karen Dunlap, president of the Poynster Institute; and the host of the panel session, Bob Papper of Hofstra University.

I cannot begin to describe how insightful, interesting and exciting this discussion was. Not surprisingly, engagement was a theme that resonated throughout the session. What was interesting, however, was the idea of a return civic journalism and commitment to communities being regarded in very high standards by news outlets.

Without further ado, I present some highlights from these powerful speakers.

Tom Rosenstiel

  • Previously, consumers had to adapt their behaviours to accommodate the media (in terms of news at specific times, for example). Today, the news media need to adapt their cycle and behaviours to suit the audience.
  • We are in a period of democratization and a type of enlightenment, in this sense.
  • Audiences are consuming more news today, not less. 25% of people state they are consuming more news, while only 10% say they are consuming less. Among those who consume through mobile technologies, 32% say they are consuming more and only 8% consuming less.

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