Robots called to journalists’ assistance


Robots have been called to the assistance of journalism, looking to take much away from humans’ workload.

A Quakebot has been deployed in California, reporting on earthquakes by dropping the data into a template and thus writing up a quick, first version of the story with basic details, like the strength of the temblor. The robot picks up information made available online from the US Geological Survey.

The first such reports have only just been released to the public and, for some readers, no difference is readily apparent.

The journalist availing himself of Quakebot’s assistance, however, has to check the robot’s output before publishing it. Other downsides include the robot’s inability to take pictures or solicit opinions from experts or first-hand accounts from witnesses.

A study by the Swedish university Karlstad has found that computer-generated news was more boring to read, but not to the extent that readers noticed it was not written by a human.

“It’s nonsense that a robot will fill up the newspaper,” Berlin-based social media expert Frederik Fischer has said.

Computer linguist Manfred Stede from Germany’s Potsdam University has also noted, “The added value of journalism is that it assesses facts and doesn’t just pass them along.”