5 Newsroom Tasks That You Should Be Automating... & 4 That You Shouldn't

Posted by Lisa Lacy on Aug 30, 2017 12:24:45 PM

Topics: Editorial Resources

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The journalism industry has experienced profound change in recent history and the pace is showing no sign of abating with the introduction of AI. Contrary to popular belief, however, AI is not going to “take over” the workplace. News organizations can incorporate AI to make reporters’ and editors’ lives easier – and to create more and/or better stories – but there will always be a need for human creativity in journalism. Here’s a look at the newsroom tasks that automated journalism should be leveraged for, and those that are better off left to human journalists.

SHOULD AUTOMATE:

1. Short-form content creation

For its part, the AP solicited Durham, North Carolina-based natural language generation firm Automated Insights to automate the creation of data-based stories like sports and finance. This enabled the AP to widen its breadth of coverage and include stories about teams and companies that might otherwise be ignored. The AP said its reporters were able to use their extra time to engage more with user-generated content, as well as to do more investigative work and develop more multimedia reports.

2. Data mining & analysis

Machines are ideally suited for crunching data and make great research assistants as they comb through countless documents and data points. This makes it easier for journalists to quickly understand what the data means in context, so they can spend more time building a story around the findings.

3. Fact checking

The ability to serve as research assistants also means AI can help reporters and editors with simple tasks like verifying facts to ensure a story is ready for publication - read: not fake news. This automated support is critical during a time when both accuracy and timeliness are of utmost importance.

4. Image & video recognition

The AP noted computer vision can help media organizations manage libraries of visual content. This, in turn, helps reporters find the right images or videos for their stories. It also means the content is more easily searchable, which can help supplement and streamline future work.

5. Visual storytelling

With so much news competing for audience attention on every platform and screen, journalists need to give users a reason to choose theirs. Creative AI tools like Wibbitz and Graphiq help journalists translate their data and tell their stories in the way that today’s mobile, multiplatform audience prefers: through compelling visuals like videos and infographics. 

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SHOULDN’T AUTOMATE:

1. Long-form content creation

While AI can generate basic news stories and summaries, it still can’t write long-form stories that need human-generated elements like evidence and narratives. “AI might aid in the reporting process, but journalists will always need to put the pieces together and construct a digestible, creative narrative,” the AP said in its report.

2. Conducting interviews

While AI tools can certainly be used to transcribe a person-to-person interview, these tools lack the ability to do actual reporting - which requires building personal relationships and convincing sources to go on the record for a significant story.

3. Opinion pieces

If we’ve learned anything from Microsoft’s racist chatbot, we should never hold robots accountable for their own opinion. Opinions around any topic should only be based on the human experience. No one wants to read an op-ed about the most underrated NBA player from a robot that has never experienced a game, even if it has every basketball stat in its database.

4. Engaging with audiences

While automated journalism can help newsrooms create more content for audiences to engage with, human journalists are still necessary to interact with and respond to their audience’s opinions and feedback around that content - and bring the engagement cycle full-circle.