Robot journalists are taking over the news industry (sort of)

Photo by Flickr user Windell Oskay
By Emerald O'Brien

This post was not generated by a computer (unfortunately). But, if you are getting your news from the AP, you just might be reading a robot’s handiwork.

After employing these metal-handed journalists for more than six months, the AP is cranking out around 1,000 stories a month with non-human bylines (well, no bylines at all).

But what does this mean for journalism? Is this where journalists get phased out like some factory workers? Or does this just provide the relief that journalism school students everywhere long for?
This issue also caused debate in June of 2014, when the AP announced that it would be pairing with Automated Insights to start the robot journalist takeover.

But, it wasn’t until last week that a press release from Automated Insights, the company working with AP to make this happen, confirmed that the software is working, and working well.

Since then the discussion has sparked again, but this time, instead of headlines like “Should we be afraid or excited about robot journalism” they are something like “Robot-writing increased AP’s earnings stories by tenfold.” 

The media seems surprisingly favorable to the change. The Verge, Huffington Post and other media outlets’ reports on the AP’s newest employees are pretty agreeable to the change.

I guess it’s hard to criticize a method that ramps up production without any change in staff. Even I am starting to root for team robot, and I am usually pretty wary when it comes to technology and journalism. But this method means I theoretically never have to write an earnings report or a wrap up of a sports game (two things which I have admittedly never done, but I also never want to do).

When the announcement came in 2014, Slate published an article looking at the differences between humans and robots (in the journalistic sense, that is). It suggested that it's not a lack of emotion that will separate the two (computers can apparently be set to "funny" mode), but the ability to widen a story by contextualizing the data.

So, if the media is right, your job is safe and it looks like this new kind of journalism will be sticking around, at least until the robots gain sentience. For me, the sooner my computer starts doing my homework, the better. 
The robot uprising won't be nearly as cute as this. Photo by Flickr user Peyri Herrera.

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