A new study written by a Karstad Professor in Sweden, attempts to determine what portion of journalistic content is noticeably different when an article is written by a robot and a human.
The study Enter the Robot Journalist, written by Christer Clerwall, tested two groups. A journalist group read material written by a human journalist and a software group were given computer written material. Members of each group were asked to answer whether they read material written by the robot or human journalist.
Clerwall’s results reveal that 63% recognized that they read computer generated material, while only 45% of the other group answered that they were reading an article produced by another human. Which may be a chilling statistic to hear by journalism professionals.
Before journalists head for the hills, Clerwall’s study only had information from 45 respondents. It may be best to recognize that more academic studies need to determine the future value robot journalists will have on the field.
This week, multiple news-stories reported that a robot for The Los Angeles Times used specific algorithms to gather content and produce this article.
Here is a comprehensive timeline of the process by The Atlantic.
The robot, built by Ken Schwencke, a programmer and data journalist writing for The Los Angeles Times produced an article within 8 minutes of the tremor.
Schwenke received flack from his fellow journalists via Twitter for developing the robot, but most hecklers admitted to what a unique process this collection of data was.
— Jonathan Silver (@jsilverpg) March 18, 2014
— Jon Murray (@denverJonMurray) March 17, 2014
— Ben Welsh (@palewire) March 17, 2014
As for right now, most journalism jobs are safe from robots. The algorithms that developers are using to produce their robot journalists are only able to write short stories that only apply the facts. According to the 45 responses in the study mentioned above, a fact only story is a boring read.
The future could use these new journalists to submit breaking news-alerts like earthquakes, tornados, or other dangerous newsworthy situations. These alerts would not need to be creatively written by a human journalist for their purpose.