Artificial Intelligence is a True Journalist’s Best Friend

If you work in or around the publishing industry, you won’t have been able to avoid stories about how AI will eventually replace the human reporter in the newsroom.

Indeed, It’s not a huge leap of imagination to see this happening, as automation has been slowly creeping in over the last few years, with major news organisations using AI tools to do jobs previously done by a human.

The Washington Post, for example, has Heliograf, a machine learning program which was used to record and analyse medal counts and scores and produce hundreds of short stories during the Rio Olympics, to cover political races at the US Election and, perhaps less glamorously, to write up high school football stories and tweet out the results.

The Associated Press has used artificially intelligent robots to automate the coverage of market earnings. USA Today has used an AI tool to produce news-related videos.  

So are AI powered tools replacing human reporters?

In some elements of the job, that may well be the case. It’s already being proven that AI-powered journalism tools can be an effective way to cover basic data and stats-based stories and yes, it might be that these tools can cover such stories faster and more accurately than a human reporter.

Real journalism

But real journalism has always been about more than reporting the bare facts.

Real journalism is about writing a story and crafting a narrative that lets people understand the way the world works, building structure out of isolated data points. It’s about understanding the behaviour and humanity of the people involved in the stories, enabling true empathy, rather than just a rational acceptance of facts.

And, as yet, there’s not been an AI tool that does that.

Let’s use a theoretical story about somebody dying in a fire. Would an algorithm be equipped with the right tools to write with compassion?

Would it be able to understand the motivations of the arsonist or know how to seek out and document a cohesive response from the community? In other words, find the real, human, story behind the facts.

The real story

Sometimes a story is more than who, what, where, when, why and how. Structuring the story with most contextually-relevant words and tone of voice can be just as crucial as the bare facts. Readers want an interpretation and explanation of events. They want a human touch.

So, have we been looking at AI in the newsroom in the wrong way? Should we be looking for supportive tools rather than a human-replacing technology. To enhance journalism rather than standardize? To do the tasks that take the most time, freeing up journalists to practice their craft rather than doing hard graft?

Many of the tasks that make up a reporter’s daily routine are tasks they actually needn’t be doing. Reporters shouldn’t be undertaking long time-consuming searches for keywords. They shouldn’t be spending hours scanning social media feeds for the hint of a story.

It’s in replacing those tasks that AI shows its true value.

We believe that reporters should be dedicated to crafting the content and building the narrative, practicing core journalistic skills, rather than tiresome admin.

AI should be seen as a tool to support real journalism not as a threat to real journalists.

Great journalists use Krzana to find pre-news.

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