How To Keep Journalism Thriving In A Robot Era

How To Keep Journalism Thriving In A Robot Era
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In response to a recent Hotwire survey showing Australians’ distrust of robot produced journalism, here the company’s managing director, Mylan Vu (pictured below), takes a look at the results and what it means for journalists, readers and that all-important fact – truth in media…

Technology is transforming the way we consume information and media, introducing concepts like ‘fake news’, ‘influencer-generated content’, ‘user generated content’ and more. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to automate the creation and publication of news stories, and to craft more click-worthy content has arguably also led to the transformation of journalism jobs.

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We’re regularly hearing of redundancies across the industry, while new jobs in corporate blogging, social influence, and video content are gaining in popularity and profitability.

There is no doubt that AI is on the verge of transforming the media industry, as it has transformed many other industries in recent years. But before jumping to conclusions and predicting a media landscape run by robots, it is important to look at the bigger picture, and understand what it is people want when they read news stories, and the new role and value of journalists in this tech-driven era.

The role of robots

At a surface level, it seems to make good business sense to continue ramping up the way technology is used to save on costs and resources for publishers. But, digging a little deeper will show that, while Australians understand the value of robot-driven content, they also see significant ethical and quality issues with relying solely on robots for news. 

A recent survey by Hotwire Australia of 1,500 Australians found almost a quarter of Australians would find news prepared by a robot to be boring (24 per cent), almost a third would consider it flawed and less trustworthy (28 per cent), and more than half believe it would introduce ethical issues (51 per cent). Meanwhile, younger generations accept that a machine-led future is inevitable, with 45 per cent of 18-24 year olds open to robo-journalism. 

So where does that leave today’s journalists? 

The research points to a highly valued and niche position for our journalists and media to play in today’s digital information age. Breaking news and financial reports were among the top types of content Australians would be happy to have prepared by a robot, and in Japan, great success is already being seen with a partnership between Shinano Mainichi Shimbun and Fujitsu resulting in 12 times the corporate earnings stories able to be generated using new technology.

However, while Australians want fast and live updates, they also want it to be accurate, informative, and entertaining. Robots can play a role in the former needs, but the latter requires expert input that only a human mind and hand can provide. 

The value of journalists

Robots might help when it comes to publishing fact-based stories such as financial results or relaying breaking news, but they cannot do it all. Australians want news articles written by and for people—not algorithms. Machines may be able to write, sometimes convincingly, and as newsrooms evolve there may be roles for robots to play. However, a media landscape dictated by robots is not what the public is demanding.

Just like we still need doctors and nurses despite the medical information available from Dr. Google, we need journalists to help us navigate truth from fiction. We need investigators to look under the bonnet of seemingly obvious conclusions to crimes and political scandals. We need analytical minds, and human emotion, to help us look beyond what is in front of us and foster a society-wide culture of learning and curiosity. 

Put simply, we cannot afford a future without these expert minds in our newsrooms.

The onus on consumers

To contribute to a thriving news landscape, consumers should think critically about how and what they are personally prepared to invest in for quality, unbiased, and crucial news and insights. 

From a business perspective, something that is clear from the survey is the impetus for businesses to invest in creating compelling, strategic content to reach their target audiences. While business decision makers and consumers are increasingly looking online for information before making a purchase, brands cannot risk a strategy of creating content for the sake of it. There is enough noise online, and a robot-only newsroom is only going to exacerbate the challenge of navigating through this noise.

Businesses, brands and consumers all can play a role in keeping each other accountable for producing news that advances our society, and recognise the value of true journalism, without eating away at the very core of what makes us human—emotions, logic, and curiosity.

 

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