back to article Stop the press: Journos not happy losing jobs to journo bots, say journos

Robots are elbowing their way into journalism and could steal “hundreds” of jobs, fearful news hacks have told academics. Professor Neil Thurman and Dr Jessica Kunert, researchers from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany, and Konstantin Dörr from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, held a workshop with …

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Alert

> and actually increases the need for the very human skills that good journalists embody...

In his dreams... The story of the modern world is that the mediocre drives out the exceptional every time.

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Re: > and actually increases the need for the very human skills that good journalists embody...

The funniest bit to me is that the fact because the robots won't feel the need to blow stuff out of prospective, there'll be no more 'fake' news as such.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: > and actually increases the need for the very human skills that good journalists embody...

Why not? It stands to reason that you can feed the "script" anything, and it will just write about that. Humans are building it, humans will corrupt it. There will be the ability to configure how "sensational" the stories are, so as to please its' master by attracting eyeballs of any type. It is known.

If you're saying that anything written by a bot is therefore true, they I think you have jumped to a conclusion that is not valid.

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Re: > and actually increases the need for the very human skills that good journalists embody...

"The funniest bit to me is that the fact because the robots won't feel the need to blow stuff out of prospective, there'll be no more 'fake' news as such."

Not deliberately, but do you want to bet that them more "interest" or volume of information there is on a topic, the more the bots will write on it. And do you want to be that most editors won't automatically add their own bias, and fail to otherwise properly set up the bots for all the usual reasons IT goes wrong when loosed into the wild.

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Re: > and actually increases the need for the very human skills that good journalists embody...

Missed the "the funniest bit" part?

Eh, why I am arguing with a bot...

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Re: > and actually increases the need for the very human skills that good journalists embody...

It depends on your frame of reference. In terms of mass production and huge profits, yes it does. But in terms of appealing to the thoughtful and educated, there will always be room for arbitrarily good writing. I hope that niche will in fact grow.

I used to subscribe to The Times, and regularly read The Telegraph and occasionally (for a giggle) The Grauniad. I subscribed to Private Eye.

Nowadays I spend far more time reading about news and current affairs, but I never touch a newspaper, and rarely listen to radio or TV current affairs. (Except, again, for a giggle and to find out what the masses are being fed).

The Reg, Slashdot, RT, RI, The Unz Review, China Daily, Paul Craig Roberts, Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten, Lew Rockwell, The Automatic Earth, Strategic Culture Foundation, Signs of the Times, Farsnews, PressTV, and periodically Dmitri Orlov, The Archdruid Report, TomDispatch, Clusterfuck Nation, Neil Clark, ConsortiumNews... the list goes on and on.

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Why rely on mere humans to read the output...

...when machines can do all of this soooo much better.

Of course, I'm feeling quite vulnerable in my role as commentard: If third rate algos are churning out pap, then presumably we meat sacks of the commentariat will be likewise displaced by robocommentards. There is a school of thought that says Amanfrommars1 is in fact a robot. Presumably all he needs to do is virtualise some additional instances, and the rest of us can hang up our keyboards.

Mind you, imagine multiple instances of Amanfrommars1 arguing with each other. Quel horreur!

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Re: Why rely on mere humans to read the output...

Already happened.

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Anonymous Coward

AI + Blockchain + Q-bits + whole wheat == latest breakfast craze!!1!

"A Chinese AI bot called Xiaomingbot single-handedly produced 450 articles covering the Olympics last year over 15 days – a feat that no human reporter could ever achieve."

To be fair, 440 articles were on the pollution, crime, and corruption at the various Olympic venues. With 8 full-coverage articles on women's volleyball outfits, and two more about actual sporting events.

ATH+++

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Terminator

Journalists, humm I think...

Personally reading about this, I think it would be not the journalists that would be worried here. I think the bigger thing for the journalists to worry, is the sub-editors and the main editors who would be a in the firing line here. Much of what sub-editors do like proof-reading, fact checking etc can be better done by machine.

The only snag is the idea of a robot-Paul Dacre, Piers Morgan or a Andrew Orlowski is a freighting concept.

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Re: Journalists, humm I think...

"... a freighting concept."

You're thinking about putting them in a box and sending them somewhere else. I suppose it's easy to do that with robots.

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Trollface

Re: Journalists, humm I think...

Piers Morgan is already a robot, albeit without the intelligence

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Re: Journalists, humm I think...

"You're thinking about putting them in a box and sending them somewhere else. I suppose it's easy to do that with robots."

Can't we do that with the real Piers Morgan and Paul Dacre anyway? Particularly if that "somewhere else" we send them to is the bottom of the Marianas Trench.

As for the other guy- listen, and understand. Robot Orlowski is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until Google is dead.

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Bots... bots who need data / Are the luckiest bots in the world

The Chinese bot creating 100s of articles undoubtedly was just massaging the masses of data about Olympic events, competitors, times, rankings, etc. into easily scannable tables and lists. Wu-hu bot!

Contrast that with economics numbers. Even more voluminous and impenetrable. You could format it for display however you like, but that isn't really going to help anyone read it except for some economists. You need analysis of complex interrelated data, and with respect to higher-level understanding of how all the relationships affect each other, before the meaning of developments becomes clear(er).

Simply spewing a larger quantity of data about car crashes, pistachio prices, murders and missing cats is not going to inform people. It is going to leave more confusion in its wake. Which is going to allow every motivated blogger and radio personality to fill the gap with their own self-serving analyses.

More real data without valid neutral interpretation at the source will expand fake news.

.

... We're ... People who need people in the world (Send them your love)

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Re: Bots... bots who need data / Are the luckiest bots in the world

> Which is going to allow every motivated blogger and radio personality to fill the gap with their own self-serving analyses.

Exactly how is that different from what journalists and editors do now?

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Will the bots get bylines? I'll want to follow those that don't mention Russian election hacking or global warming.

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El Reg is safe

Until someone comes up with an AI for pun headlines and! adding! exclamation! marks! to! every! Yahoo! headline! that is.

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Re: El Reg is safe

"and! adding! exclamation! marks! to! every! Yahoo! headline! that is."

If {$story contains "yahoo"} then do sed -s/" "/"! "/g

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Flame

"Most journalists agreed that robot-churned copy lacked depth, creativity, and complexity compared to articles by experienced human journalists."

In other words it reported the facts as they were and didn't include biased opinionated crap. Or it didn't smear the facts to the point that the article resembles the news in name only.

Whatever happened to reporting the news of the day factually and allowing the reader to form their own opinion, you know like journalists as supposed to do.

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Analysis

"Whatever happened to reporting the news of the day factually and allowing the reader to form their own opinion, you know like journalists as supposed to do." --- FozzyBear

Whilst I agree, the caveat is that, without a significant change to education (in the UK at least) very many people are not equipped to form their own opinion. Most recent example I came across on FB: someone said "I don't really care what it says in scientific papers, I trust the evidence of my own eyes and ears" Now, this is a reasonably intelligent person, and plenty of other reasonably intelligent people "liked" it and typed their heartfelt agreement, despite the fact that, although it sounds good, it's absolutely stupid.

I don't think fake news is the problem: it's fake analysis ---either at the editorial level or at the level of the reader (or listener or viewer) that is really a problem: correctly spelled, grammatically sound, articulate, authoritative and persuasive text that fundamentally misrepresents either the content or, more often, the meaning, of the facts to which it refers.

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Re: Analysis

> Now, this is a reasonably intelligent person...

No, it isn't.

> ... other reasonably intelligent people ...

No, they aren't.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Analysis

Nijam, I have friends and family all over the world and if you know of another way we can keep in touch so easily, I think you should tell the world and not just keep it to yourself.

Although I agree that much of what appears on FarceBook is puerile childishness, it is a good way to get information to lots of people in a relatively quick and painless way.

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No human could write 30 articles a day?

That's one article every 15 minutes in a normal working day. If they were articles about the Olympics, presumably they focused on facts the bot was fed - who medaled in various events, with the winning time/score listed, and a note if any Olympic or world records were broken.

Such articles would be pretty basic - essentially a fact dump is the input, and a human readable fact dump is the output - and could easily be churned out in 15 minutes or less. I assume similar results could be obtained for writing articles based on police reports, court records, press releases, and so on. Do journalists really want to be doing this sort of work in the first place? I doubt it.

I have to think it will be a while before it can automatically write articles about the whole Trump/Russia mess, the upcoming elections in France, the prospects for what will replace Obamacare, etc. since you can't just write those articles based on a fact dump.

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I would have to say the stories coming out of CNN and Reuters already lack depth, and I've been considering whether my WSJ and Economist subscriptions are still worth the money.

I've never understood the MBA mindset: People won't buy our crap, so lets cut our costs and make it crappier.

Kind of like the old boarding school complaint - the food tastes like shite and the portions are too small.

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Anonymous Coward

Does Katyanna Quach run on Linux? Or is it a Windows Bot?

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Just so long as they can insert the phrase "fears that" into every headline all will be fine.

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Fact checking

Do these bots email the subject of an article and ask for comment? Does Apple have a bot to that ignores any email from The Register?

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Where's amanfrommars? That should be the one commenting on this article.

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Trollface

Given that most rags do little more than copy/paste PR puff from politicos or companies, one wonders if the robots will stop at just replacing the middle-man in this arrangement and target the other sides too? Robots creating PR drivel to be tweaked by robots for "local news" to be read by robots (to dive up the advertising "seen by" figures)?

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journalists from The Sun thought it could enhance speed and accuracy

Ha haha ha ha ha haaa

Sorry, I mentally added "the Daily Mail" to that one there, and I was also reeling from the line about "Stories need to be based on data"

This IS the UK press we are talking about isn't it?

I can't actually think of ANY paper press in the UK that is not a comic or a vehicle to push the UK into Brexit (ironic considering most of em are owned by the "Dammed Furrigners", a sad indictment of the average British persons level of intelligence)

Robots would NEVER work in the UK, because its hard to get a machine to write with the correct levels of xenophobic acidity while having an air of "I cant believe these ****** are actually lapping this up" that a human can achieve.

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Re: journalists from The Sun thought it could enhance speed and accuracy

Downvoted because of your inference that anybody who voted for leaving the EU is somehow mentally deficient because they don't agree with you.

Not everyone who voted 'Leave' is racist or stupid, and there are plenty of people who voted 'Remain' who are barely able to tie their shoelaces or drive in a straight line.

I voted 'Leave', and one of the reasons was the EU's habit of redoing elections until they got the result they wanted - a bit like the 'Remainers' who don't like that they lost so now want another Referendum, and the MPs who decided they didn't want to make the decision so allowed us to have the Referendum and then complained when it didn't go the way they thought it would and now want to have a veto... sorry, VOTE on it in Parliament.

There were other reasons but I doubt you would be at all interested since you apparently believe only those who voted 'Remain' are capable of independent thought - even if you seem to be displaying a slight lack thereof yourself, jumping on the "all Leavers are stupid racists" bandwagon as you have...

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Anonymous Coward

Journalism

Some journalism is just some bullshit made up to fill the space, some is over-hyped nonsense based on a tiny grain of fact. There is also a class of 'journalism' that is just reformatting press releases. Presumably all of these can be easily replaced.

The investigative (foot in the door, follow the money trail etc.) journalist would be harder to replace.

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TS/SCI in Right DODgy AIMODified Circles/Military Industrial Complexes/Autocratic Democracies?!*

There may be a silver lining to the thought of machines stealing jobs only to spit out bland copy, however, Thurman said.

The magic begins when the silver turns to diamond encrusted gold and when smarter machines spit out more than just the bland copy of today, ... for example:-

The proper tone is the UK walking away and paying corrupt systems and perverse administrations nothing. Quite whether that is a forthright leadership within the political classes and rank and file of Parliamentary government of the UK is on public show trial now and will define the future landscape of media tales, both at home and further abroad and in emerging alien fields and spaces, for ages yet to come.

The Future is nothing like the Past, and from the Present is the quickest but nowhere near the easiest Path to Lead Followers and Follow Leaders with it and IT and Virtual Machines, to Tune In and Turn Onto the AIRevolution which will be TeleVisualised and Virtualised Remotely for Delivery as a New Orderly Ordered World Order Program with Novel Erotic Projects and Exotic Exciting Missions.

Further instructions to follow, with easy step guides to ensure and guarantee rapid progress in all right and wronged alternative directions of future travel.

Chase Words, Create, Command and Control and Destroy Worlds

And in virtual systems of remote access control is the power of two in support of each others empathetic view, an energy squared. And expanding that simply to a free chosen few, has command and control exponentially empowered to heights and depths which be unassailable and way beyond any common comprehension ....... and in that alone is there an immaculately protected stealth and perfect secrecy to aid and abet future spontaneous actions/zeroday vulnerability exploitations.

And as you may be able to easily imagine if you can think appropriately, is such a lining also an Almighty Cloaked Weapon and Quantum Communications Device for NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive IT Systems Builders and SMARTR Virtually Machined AI Vendors.

And when you be advised of the weapon being readily available and presently being field tested by that and those which be currently vying for future energy command and remote control of drivers steering your existence, for a rapid radical change of future empowered direction, is it really something you should be much more aware of. Or is Ignorance, Bliss, with Stealth and Secrecy Sublimely Served?

Can you handle ITs CodeRed Truth? :-) ...... https://youtu.be/9FnO3igOkOk

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Opportunity Knocks Out TS/SCI in Right DODgy AIMODified Systems of SCADA Administration*

And there are already myriad absolutely fabulous opportunities immediately available to any and all of these new fangled, Quantum Communication Entangling IT Truth Coders ........ https://theintercept.com/2017/03/02/trump-may-choose-alternative-intelligence-to-support-his-alternative-facts-former-agents-warn/

And whenever priceless, is the cost of server and services silence and/or price for remotely virtually active, leading exclusivity reflected in an individual collective paper worth of billions/trillions/gazillions for flash spending/crash protection insurance investment.

* The default one used for the programming of dumb machines and numb humans alike.

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How would they know?

> Most journalists agreed that robot-churned copy lacked depth, creativity, and complexity compared to articles by experienced human journalists.

But the article tells us, those journo's were from the Sun and the Daily Mirror

What I want from a source of news is facts. Who, Where, When, How much. I do not want opinions. I do not want to be told how to feel about a report (using words like "shocking" in the copy - if something is shocking, I can work that out for myself). I do not want to be given only the part of the story that agrees with the publication's narrative.

This seems ideal for a 'bot. One that hasn't been to "journo school" to learn how to create click-bait headlines, fact-free copy, opinions masquerading as news, articles that tell us what politicians and others in positions of power "should" or "must" do.

If there is to be any place left for individuals with journalistic skills, it would be with subject-matter specialists who can explain the finer details of economic / political / scientific news. To provide background for a story. But not to write half-arsed, incorrect and biased pieces about stuff that doesn't affect anyone in the readership. And most importantly, to decide what constitutes news and to promote that above and to the exclusion of celebrity based tittle-tattle.

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Re: How would they know?

Howdy, Pete 2,

The following old adages explain to you the current role of mainstreaming media and clearly enough identifies the arrogant and vulnerable masters which ignorance serves .........

“In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” … So said Winston Churchill, the grandmaster of fake news.

"The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." - George Orwell.

“The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.” …. Maximilien Robespierre

“Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavours to live at the expense of everybody else.” …. Frédéric Bastiat in the mid-nineteenth century

In 1907, U.S. Congressman (and career prosecutor) Charles Lindbergh Sr. presented “The Bankers Manifesto of 1892” to the U.S. Congress. This grandiose declaration of the oligarchs of the 19 th century, antecedents of the Oligarch Trillionaires of today, is as prophetic as it is despicable.

In part, it reads:

“When through the process of law, the common people have lost their homes they will be more tractable and easily governed through the influence of the strong arm of government applied to a central power of imperial wealth under the control of the leading financiers. People without homes will not quarrel with their leaders.”

Old facts which be present unspeakable and unspoken truths, Pete 2? I do believe they really are.

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Re: How would they know?

> Howdy, Pete 2,

Impressive. A little more work on the cultural environment and parsing and I reckon that in 6 months or so, this will be ready. At least for the red-tops.

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Where we are headed

Within 5 years, bots will write the news in El Reg and bots will visit the site and write the comments. The Ad revenue will keep streaming in and you can all retire to New Zealand, leaving only Simon here to reboot the servers occasionally.

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Anonymous Coward

Garbage in, garbage out.

There was a 2000AD comic strip about replacing people with robots....

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So?

"Hacks working at CNN and Thomson Reuters were particularly cynical".

The whole of the mainstream media is going down anyway, whether quicker or slower. The days when people were content to be fed mass-produced pabulum are coming to an end.

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Re: The days when people were content to be fed mass-produced pabulum

But isn't that exactly what the autogenerated click fodder is going to generate?

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Anonymous Coward

It'll never work.

As robot journos will have to obey robots.txt files.

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