It is fascinating to study how people use technology in their relationships (representational image)
Representational image | Pixabay
Text Size:

As if the coronavirus pandemic wasn’t enough of a nightmare for workers around the world, now Artificial intelligence has started taking over people’s jobs.

Amid several industries being affected by the influx of automation, journalism, it turns out, is not an exception. Microsoft recently decided to fire dozens of its journalists responsible for selecting, curating and editing articles for the MSN website, with plans to replace them with automated systems that shall select news stories. At a time when Indian news media companies are laying off employees left, right, and centre due the Covid-related economic downfall, the possibility of robots affecting our job security further is a chilling thought. Turns out all those Hollywood movies not only predicted calamities such as the pandemic, the locust attack and multiple climate change fiascos, but also robots rendering humans redundant.

But it’s worth acknowledging that as of now AI isn’t taking away the jobs of reporters, but of those responsible for selecting and arranging the news. But who knows when the robots might be able match the grit and instinct of reporters, too?

What if this article was written by a robot? Who will the editors blame if something is factually incorrect? Will Solicitor General Tushar Mehta call the news bots ‘vultures’ then?

Artificial Intelligence is still in its early stages. But it will be interesting to see how it will change the fourth pillar of democracy, especially in an era of clickbait web journalism and shouting matches on Prime Time TV news. Will hysterical anchors in newsrooms be replaced by robots who’ll talk with some sanity?

Or with pre-decided templates and algorithms, making them another agenda-fulfilling tool? Looks can be deceptive — take China’s first AI news presenters “Xin Xiaomeng“, who sports a short haircut, a pink blouse and earrings, and “Xin Xiaohao” who wears a sharp suit and charismatically presents the news like any other news presenter.

 


Also read: Covid has been hard on journalism. AI can help — without taking your job


A blessing for reporters

Using AI in news is not completely new. In several parts of the world, AI is now being used for finding stories mining data, analysis, transcribing interviews, to helping fact check and spotting plagiarism in articles. A French news agency uses AI to detect doctored photos and even teamed up with Facebook, whereas a Canadian agency developed an AI system to speed up translations. Microsoft claims its move to bring in AI was part of its business evaluation.

In such cases, it would indeed be a blessing for reporters and journalists who can then focus on long-form journalism, human analysis of stories and investigative journalism.

AI could be pretty useful in optimising mundane backend tasks. I could be more productive and inspired to do other important things if I could save 30 minutes I just spent looking for the right image. Or letting automation do the task of conducting simple fact checks, or identifying fake news. AI systems are well capable of identifying real sources of news content from artificially generated ones. Identifying fake news is crucial at a time when even the President of the United States is routinely accused of sharing false news. AI can also easily curate news on a website as per a user’s interest or browsing history. Even searching for specific reports will become much easier.

If routine mechanical tasks journalists quietly do as part of their job could be dumped on AI, life would be so much better!


Also read: Post Covid, it’s not a bad idea to have robots and machines replace humans at some jobs


Robot journalism

In China and Russia, there have been experiments of hiring robots to present news on television. Some Russian viewers complained that the robot, who could only move his facial features and neck, was creepy. Others said it was the future of news. While some other more suspicious viewers accused it of peddling political agenda.

While there might be the remote possibility that Navika Kumar, Sudhir Chaudhary and Rubika Liyaquat may be replaced robotic counterparts sometime in the distant future
I don’t think humans can ever be replaced by metal bodies when it comes to reporting on the ground.

Take the picture of senior journalist Barkha Dutt hugging a 70-year-old woman stranded in Mumbai alone, waiting outside a railway station, or the many pictures and videos of reporters going out of their way to help stranded workers in whichever way they can. Compassion and humanity are essential parts of being a reporter. No matter how hard you try to desensitise yourself, a part of you will feel that pain. This is why journalism will always be human-centric.

 

Even on television, I doubt bots can bring the same kind of drama and dynamism that anchors like Arnab Goswami or Ameesh Devgan do, although it can admittedly be very jarring at times. I won’t feel that punch when a robot will cut off a panelist to deliver a monologue the same way Arnab does. The ‘nation wants to know’ will not have the same power in an automated voice, unless the algorithm feeds an Arnab-like voice in the system. Similarly, bots will not be able to replicate Ravish Kumar’s calm, yet acerbic take on the country’s state of affairs. AI can help journalists and media houses catch up with tech, but it can never take over journalism.


Also read: China’s got a new plan to overtake the US in tech


 

ThePrint is now on Telegram. For the best reports & opinion on politics, governance and more, subscribe to ThePrint on Telegram.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

5 Comments Share Your Views

5 COMMENTS

  1. And AI can be manipulated by a left support party like The print,the quint, etc. .Bravo! You are pushing the country to severely manipulative articles and you are so afraid and insecure about Nationalists and people who want betterment of society that you always have those people as target. .now go and shit on yourselves!

  2. AI has every thing that a human intelligence has, in fact with the super facst computing time the predictions made are much faster.
    AI has no feelings of, likes, dislikes, ability to use sarcasm, abusive language, and such other aspects of human nature which are present in an indivusual without being intelligent.
    That is why therer will always be a market for be AI Arnab or Ravish

  3. Uh actually there WILL BE AI news anchors, not anytime soon , but there will be. The social media platforms are always eager to give away data for say, R&D, this data is already being used to test methods for accurate sentiment analysis of masses, to determine their moods and biases, once that is done, it needs to be integrated into an AI, and u are probably done, just give it instructions and it shall follow them. Totally unrelated, but let me hint you towards a similar scenario in science fiction genre. A video game of cyberpunk sub genre called, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, it is set in post-2020, in this post modern world, the big corporations have bought the governments and do as they please, the state of media seems to be just fine. here, there is a news anchor called Eliza who is liked and respected by all, she speaks in a very sweet and soothing voice, people like to listen to her, and believe in what she has to say, she interviews important persons and questions them and puts them in tight spots, and people like her for all she does. But the protagonist of the story does some investigation and finds out that she is not a real person, she is an AI, she collects data from social media platforms and surveillance networks and use it to plan her actions accordingly. she can determine the moods and biases of masses, she can predict the outcomes of certain news, if it is reported that is. she can generate various narratives to report an event, and determine how the masses might react to it, her sweet voice is part of her ploys. Everything she does is part of a bigger plan, and is done as per ther instructions given to her. She was put in place by corporates running the world.

  4. A post based on a series of tweets. Of course in the AI age, a robot is not supposed to be biased and subjective to give a certificate of calmness to Ravish and lambasting his rivals alone, sparing him. Thanks to the headline giver who has bracketed Ravish and Arnab as they deserve.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here