AUTOMATING THE NEWS: HOW ALGORITHMS ARE REWRITING THE MEDIA
By Nicholas Diakopoulos
Harvard University Press, 2019, pp. 322, R1667.00
Social media occupies enormous mind space but it is only one relatively shallow manifestation of human-computer interaction. Using Artificial Intelligence in the news industry as well as for multiple data collection applications in society is going to be the way forward.
How many dimensions are there to using automation for journalism? Several unfold in the course of this book. No wonder there is an emerging discipline called Computational Journalism, which journalism schools in India will soon have to begin to grapple with. The author is a computer scientist turned journalism teacher.
News agencies are already using automation in the realm of finance and sports. Algorithms are used to churn out under-200-words corporate earning articles for the Associated Press, even as corporate results come in. In the process they free up the humans in the newsroom to do longer follow up stories on corporate performance, with added value. Sometimes reporters use alternative data to add context and interpretation to the automated story that has been produced.
One of the points this book makes is that automation in the newsroom is actually used to complement human effort rather than substitute it. Having them around changes news production practices. Automation adds scale to coverage. It helps you cover more local soccer matches, more congressional races, and more company results on the stock market. And it makes the news process more error free. Robots do not make typos and they do not make math errors.