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Robots are Revolutionizing the News Business

As time progresses, we are constantly stepping into new technology territory.  We’re now being introduced to an upcoming change that could threaten the future of the news business – the robot journalist. As more and more publications note this change, we have to wonder what journalists think of this news revolution.

Ken Schwencke, a journalist and programmer at the Los Angeles Times, created the very first algorithm that can generate news stories quickly, called the quakebot. Using trusted sources, these robots have the ability to collect information, place them into a template and generate a news story in just a few seconds. In March of this year, the Los Angeles Times cranked out a story about a local earthquake and had it posted online in less than three minutes, beating all other news publications. The Associated Press was the second media outlet to utilize a robot journalist to generate stories.

Just last month, robot engineers in Japan released the first ever robot news anchor. Their creation has extremely lifelike mannerisms like blinking and swaying and is said to read the news better than a human news anchor. Its speech is imputed with text and then recited with perfect pronunciation and articulation.

The Huffington Post reported that a robot journalist can produce 4,400 stories in the same time that a regular journalist writes 300. How’s that for efficiency? The introduction of robot journalism will change the way in which the public consumes news because readers will absorb news instantaneously as it occurs. If robots deliver stories quicker than current journalists, are their jobs at risk?  NBC News anticipates that journalism is one of nine professions that will eventually be taken over by robots because it saves money in the long run.

According to Schwencke at the Los Angeles Times, the public should not be concerned with robots replacing the jobs of human journalists. The robots simply take facts and spit them out in paragraph form. They do not have the ability to approach a story creatively and add the judgment, analysis and interpretation that a human can.

“The way we use it, it’s supplemental,” says Schwencke. “It saves people a lot of time, and for certain types of stories, it gets the information out there in usually about as good a way as anybody else would. The way I see it is, it doesn’t eliminate anybody’s job as much as it makes everybody’s job more interesting.”

Robot journalists can write multiple stories and send them to the paper’s staff, who then determines which stories are newsworthy and need to be developed further by the human journalists. Essentially, these robots are just one piece of the puzzle that will allow future journalists to publish pieces in a more timely fashion.

If robots do become a regular part of journalism to any degree, this change may affect the relationship between public relations practitioners and the media. If robots start writing all of the rough drafts before journalists come in and add creativity, will we pitch our story ideas to robots? Only time will tell the extent of this revolution. As of now, it doesn’t look like robots will take over the news industry in its entirety, and as an agency that values professional relationships with journalists, we’re happy to continue working with real people.

See an example of a news story from a robot journalist below:

A shallow magnitude 4.7 earthquake was reported Monday morning five miles from Westwood, California, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 6:25 a.m. Pacific time at a depth of 5.0 miles.

According to the USGS, the epicenter was six miles from Beverly Hills, California, seven miles from Universal City, California, seven miles from Santa Monica, California and 348 miles from Sacramento, California. In the past ten days, there have been no earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and greater centered nearby.

This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author.

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