Can the news Write Itself?

The way news and information are being consumed is changing rapidly. With the advent of social media, information is often immediately available and easy to consume. This has characterized what information people want and how they want to consume it. Because of the way this consumption is changing, traditional media has had to search for ways to adapt, often adopting or even pioneering new technological advances. This is why the article about the new technology one Russian news agency is adopting is pretty intriguing.

The title of this article is slightly misleading. At first glance, it makes it seem that this news agency has somehow developed an algorithm for nearly ai technology that can somehow find, process, and write news stories. However, the actual technology this agency is choosing to pioneer is still very interesting. I wanted to have a discussion with the class about what benefits you could see to this technology? Since it is fully automated, it could possibly publish weather forecasts and traffic alerts faster than a human could. Or, it really could just be an attempt to eventually cut down employment costs. If the technology is successful, news agencies would no longer have to hire someone to write them. Are there other benefits that maybe I’m not seeing? Does this seem like something that could be successfully adopted by the rest of the industry?


6 Responses to “Can the news Write Itself?”

  1. I think you touched on the main benefit of this technology, that it gets the traffic and weather reports out very quickly. Personally, I think that is the only benefit. To me, this seems like a slippery slope that could cut out human involvement in writing, which is horrifying because what is more human than people writing about people doing things to help/hurt people. That is only one reason why reporter robots are unsettling– if an algorithm can be produced that gives news, it could likely develop into a tool for propaganda. Just imagine, if a company makes an algorithm to report on financial wrongdoings (for example) and that company is tied up in fraud, who is going to report it? Surely not the algorithm/robot they created. This also undermines the fact that there is craft that goes into writing. It’s an art not a mechanical process. Efficiency should not be the deciding factor in all aspects of life. However, I would have been even more uncomfortable reading this article if it was in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or something else similar. I’ve just never heard of this news source before, which made me question the validity of the article. Also, it seemed to end very abruptly.

  2. I agree that this technology may make it easier for news organizations to quickly release stories about things like traffic and weather. It is an interesting topic, but one that the article itself failed to fully explore. Reading it gave the impression that it was a computer algorithm (and a buggy one at that) reporting on itself! The article left many interesting avenues of exploration dead, like: Could this technology be use someday in broader contexts? Why does Yandex think that this might be the media of the future? How does the computer actually work? Does it both find the news and publish it, or does it require human input? Interesting topic, boring article.

  3. I agree with the above sentiments that the article was a tad tricky to read and ended very abruptly.

    But responding to erherman’s comments about potential conflicts-of-interests, I don’t think that’s necessarily a valid critique of the algorithm, because that already happens with human-generated news. You don’t have to look any farther than the entirety of the Daily Show when Jon Stewart was host (*moment of silence*), he consistently ripped Fox News for being biased and not reporting certain things.

    For another example, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, bought the Washington Post. Recently, the New York Times ran a piece about the grueling conditions Amazon employees are subject to. I’m skeptical that The Post would have ran that story had it come to them.

    I’m not saying you’re concerns aren’t legitimate; it’s a real issues that we should all work to address. I just thing it’s an unfair critique of the algorithms.

  4. I honestly think this could be beneficial, particularly for the traffic updates. If you’re heading to work in the morning, you want the most up to date information, which could come from this new algorithm. I don’t really see how this algorithm could be applicable to anything other than weather and traffic updates. I think certain things just need to be written by humans, so I do not really see this algorithm going much further. The news article itself was just very short and awkward. It didn’t really explain anything, so it didn’t sound like the author knew much about the topic. I would like to know more about the technology though and it would be interesting to see an example of the short articles it produces.

  5. For something like traffic reports, I think it would be a good thing as the only thing we care about is if there is traffic or not.

    However, actual news stories need a human element to them in my opinion. Hence, they still need to be written by actual humans. If they are automated, they will sound exactly that way — not exactly an exciting read. Also, automation may cause the story to miss important context, which would give the reader a completely misleading view of what was happening. In short, people are still a vital part of news reporting and storytelling in general.

  6. There were a couple interesting things about this article that stood out to me.

    The first is that Yandex, the company in Russia applying technology to create automated weather and traffic updates, is a search engine, not a media organization. I think this begs the question: is there a difference between information and the news. Google provides unbounded information about the world, including the news, but I would not consider it to be a news organization. I think the critical role of the news is to put information in context and explain its significance. I doubt that we will create an AI algorithm sophisticated enough in the near future to explain and not just synthesize information.

    The second is that the organization that published this article was Discovery Communications, which it appears is better known to us as the Discovery Channel. Although the Discovery Channel is not a storied news organization like the New York Times, I’m willing to give it a reasonable amount of credibility. However, the article was written by AFP which is a French news agency. I have no context for the credibility of AFP and this raises the question of where media outlets get content from. Local newspapers have long run AP articles to provide coverage of national and international issues to local audiences. However, in the race to generate more content, and, therefore, more advertising money, non-traditional news organizations seem content to let any and all content be published because another webpage is cheap.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s