When Reporters Get Hands-On with Robo-Writing: Professionals Consider Automated Journalism's Capabilities and Consequences

Digital Journalism. doi: 10.1080/21670811.2017.1289819 (2017)

20 Pages Posted: 21 Jun 2017

See all articles by Neil Thurman

Neil Thurman

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich; City, University of London

Konstantin Dörr

Independent

Jessica Kunert

Independent

Date Written: 2017

Abstract

The availability of data feeds, the demand for news on digital devices, and advances in algorithms are helping to make automated journalism more prevalent. This article extends the literature on the subject by analysing professional journalists’ experiences with, and opinions about, the technology. Uniquely, the participants were drawn from a range of news organizations—including the BBC, CNN, and Thomson Reuters—and had first-hand experience working with robo-writing software provided by one of the leading technology suppliers. The results reveal journalists’ judgements on the limitations of automation, including the nature of its sources and the sensitivity of its “nose for news”. Nonetheless, journalists believe that automated journalism will become more common, increasing the depth, breadth, specificity, and immediacy of information available. While some news organizations and consumers may benefit, such changes raise ethical and societal issues and, counter-intuitively perhaps, may increase the need for skills—news judgement, curiosity, and scepticism—that human journalists embody.

Keywords: algorithmic journalism, automated journalism, computational journalism, journalism ethics, media economics, news production, professional skills, robot journalism

Suggested Citation

Thurman, Neil J. and Dörr, Konstantin and Kunert, Jessica, When Reporters Get Hands-On with Robo-Writing: Professionals Consider Automated Journalism's Capabilities and Consequences (2017). Digital Journalism. doi: 10.1080/21670811.2017.1289819 (2017), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2989462

Neil J. Thurman (Contact Author)

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich ( email )

Oettingenstr. 67
Munich, 80538
Germany

City, University of London ( email )

Northampton Square
London, EC1V 0HB
United Kingdom

Konstantin Dörr

Independent ( email )

Jessica Kunert

Independent ( email )

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