Journalists Should Welcome Their New Computer Overlords

Take a look at this interesting summary piece describing improving applications of AI to automated writing of news. I couldn’t resist repeating Ken Jenning’s infamous statement after he was defeated by the IBM Jeopardy playing computer Watson, but seriously, I don’t think there is any fear that computers will replace journalists as the writer seems to worry. No computer algorithm is anywhere near the point yet that they can write evocative, insightful prose that encapsulates the experience and reasoning that journalists bring to their jobs.

However, this kind of technology of producing summary posts on a topic in prose could be a useful feature when people are looking for breaking news. Right now if you want to find out about something which is occurring right now and isn’t being covered live on CNN you need to turn to sifting Twitter or google searches yourself manually. To get a good link between the various different feeds you usually need to wait for a human somewhere to integrate those facts together. Much of this initial grunt work of detecting a new story and compiling links can be automated now.

As a tool for journalists these generated articles could even be the initial seeds used to write news stories.  Further writing would always be needed and undoubtedly facts would need to be checked and more detail gathered on interesting aspects of the story. But an initial draft of an article generated by an AI system could actually help improve the quality of journalism by focussing humans on the important parts of the story that need to be filled in rather than spending lots of time gathering links to other sources, tweets and articles which are readily available. Perhaps we could even train the automated news summarizers to filter out less relevant stories and improve the quality of news overall.

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