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“Breaking News” Brought To You By Robots!

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MSN.com had journalists pick out news stories, pictures to go along with it and headlines but not anymore. Microsoft is replacing most contract journalists that work on the MSN website with robots i.e automated systems! 

These redundant tasks will now be taken over by Artificial Intelligence. Microsoft said in a statement that this is a part of their business evaluation process. It can increase investment in some places and redeployment in others. They also clarified that this decision is not driven by the current pandemic. 

Microsoft pays news organisations to pick up their content for its websites and it hires journalists to pick out the stories. The journalist chooses which story will go forward and how it will be presented. A lot of tech companies do this. 

With this decision, Microsoft will be laying off 50 contract news producers by the end of this month. However, the full-time journalists’ team will continue. 

Would AI be a good news producer?

An automated news producer would use algorithms to track trending news stories and select relevant ones for the website. Just like how a human journalist changes the headline and finds a photograph, the automated news producer will also be able to do that. 

There have already been bots deployed in media houses which have been successfully publishing news on their website. While this happens to be a cost-effective solution, it also brings accuracy. What does this mean for the field of journalism?

AI will never be a threat to journalism

How do we say that so confidently? AI and robots are replacing tasks that are redundant and can be done by machine learning algorithms. However, this leaves more space for journalists to research and write unique news articles of their own. 

The field of journalism cannot function without critical, empathetic and analytical skills to find the truth in the story. A bot can only understand as much as the algorithm allows it to. For human emotions and critical thought processes, there would always be a need of a human journalist. 

AI is Cost-effective and creates new job roles…

Redundant tasks require a lot of manpower and by automating these tasks, enterprises can cut down on some heavy costs. There will be better quality of jobs for journalists which would require them to use their mental capacity benevolently. This explains why the layoff at Microsoft is only for news curation and not for full-time journalists. By replacing mundane tasks, the field of journalism may see new kind of job roles open up that challenge their critical thinking and need human supervision. 


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