Computers have been an increasingly important part of our lives for years, so perhaps it should be no surprise that with the rise in artificial intelligence they are now set to take over our news rooms.
The former universities minister David Willetts warned recently that robots could take over the newsroom after the Associated Press news agency started using technology to automatically generate financial reports, dispensing with the need for reporters. Earlier this year the Washington Post also published an article about an earthquake that was automatically generated within minutes using an algorithm. So is the journalist about to be replaced by the journo-bot?
After all, how would you be able to tell if this article was written by a robot? Would a bland writing style and lack of irony or personality give it away?
The PR industry relies upon a free and powerful press for our work to have real value and should champion the cause of journalists. However, in recent years we have seen a contraction in the number of journalists in many media outlets, to the point that we have seen our press releases regurgitated word-for-word in some cases. So what effect would a rise in automated stories have on the reputation and authority of the media?
Commentators have argued that far from causing the death of the journalist, automation could be a liberating force, as great journalism will always rely on humans. Computers would be left to do the basic reports, leaving humans more time to investigate and dig into more complex and nuanced stories.
So let’s not fear the rise of the machine, but celebrate the added time it will give writers to investigate stories that wouldn’t otherwise have seen the light of day. It is when the PR-bot is released that we really need to be worried…