US Media Organisations Developing Robot Journalists to Replace… Hey! Should I be Writing This?

By Nick Cowen on at

A number of US media organisations including the New York Times, Getty, The Washington Post and Associated Press have signed up for a plan to produce robot journalists.

Right. You can stop laughing now. This is serious.

According to The Register, a press release from the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership at Virginia Tech details a research plan showing how reporters could use aerial drones to gather news. A total of 11 news organisations have joined up with Virginia Tech to research scenarios where journalists in the field would use unmanned aircraft to help them in their quest for hot leads.

“This coalition represents significant media organisations, leaders of the industry,” said Rose Mooney of Virginia Tech. “Working together, we have a way forward toward the development of legitimate, commercial uses of the technology."

This isn’t the first time news organisations have turned to ‘robot’ tech to make news gathering more automated and cheaper. Media groups have been using algorithms to write stories for a while now. AP implemented Automated Insight’s Wordsmith automated copy generating system, allowing the organisation to auto-generate stories to in-house style.

However, reporters augmented in their work by drones sounds a little too close to something found in the pages of Transmetropolitan. You also have to wonder in light of the phone hacking scandal what some reporters may do with this technology. And then of course there’s the worry that the more automated the profession of news-gathering becomes, whether a human element may go missing permanently.

Hell what am I doing wasting time writing this? Maybe I should look into re-training. [The Register]

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