Artificial intelligence (AI) is shaking up present-day journalism. Automated news writing and distribution is already a reality.
On October 11, National Business Daily ("NBD"), China's leading financial/business media agency, launched the beta version of "NBD AI TV" which is automated from news writing, text-to-speech conversion, to video making and broadcasting. Except for reviewing and supervising, there is no need for human participation in the whole process.
In an interview with NBD, John V. Pavlik, Professor of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University, said that "NBD AI TV" sounds like a fascinating development and use of AI, adding that such product can increase news production efficiency and accuracy, and potentially help produce less bias in news. But he cautioned that the management should implement such AI technology ethically and responsibly.
John V. Pavlik engages in research on journalism and new media. His research papers include "Journalism and Media""The Impact of Technology on Journalism""Media in the Digital Age". He is a former columnist for CNN.com and also a member of the Advisory Board of the Global Communication Research Institute at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China.
As the biggest institution of higher education in New Jersey, Rutgers University is the eighth-oldest college in the United States and also one of the universities with the strongest scientific research capability.
AI revolutionizes news reporting
Journalism is a vast industry, and thousands of journalists are on the ground covering stories and doing live broadcast across the globe.
Robo-journalists are emerging to take some of the workload off humans -- freeing them to work on bigger stories. NBD is among the news agencies to bring AI technologies or a robot into the system.
Co-developed by NBD and Chinese ChatBot company Beijing Hongmian XiaoIce Technology (a Microsoft spin-off), the "NBD AI TV" is producing and delivering business and financial news in videos uninterruptedly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Compared with traditional TV channels that involve hundreds of staff and equipments worth more than tens of millions of yuan to operate, "NBD AI TV" requires almost no human involvement in its operation and its operation is not subject to hardware or equipment constraints.
In the eyes of Prof. Pavlik, the automation of news writing, text-to-speech conversion, to video making and broadcasting is a significant innovation. "Such automation can increase efficiency in the newsgathering and production process and reduce costs. If used well, automation can release human reporters from focusing their energies on routine assignments to focusing on more enterprise and investigative reporting," he shared in the interview with NBD.
He believed that AI can bring benefits to the news industry. "One way AI can benefit journalism is by increasing efficiency and reliability in news reporting and coverage. AI can increase speed and also help news media continue to create quality journalism on reduced funding. Moreover, AI can be used to help in fact-checking and other important parts of quality journalism.
Monitoring, important for AI journalism
Nowadays, the AI technology is being used differently in media agencies. "The uses fall into a number of categories," Prof. Pavlik introduced. According to him, AI is being used to help gather news or act as a reporter (e.g., the LA Times Quakebot feeds directly into the US Geological Survey and reports on seismic activity in virtual real-time); many news media including the Associated Press ("AP") is using AI to write news stories (e.g., the AP uses AI to automate writing of earnings reports).
Besides, AI robots analyze large datasets and send alerts to journalists at Bloomberg News as soon as a trend or anomaly emerges from big data; the FT is also using AI to spot trends within economies and within markets; Xinhua makes an AI robot present the news.
"Media businesses can gain greater efficiency and cost savings by using AI effectively and ethically," Prof. Pavlik told NBD.
To Prof. Pavlik, computational journalism/AI journalism presents an opportunity to increase efficiency in news gathering, improve accuracy, and help reduce the potential for bias in news reporting. But, conversely, if news management uses computational journalism/AI journalism as a strategy to replace human journalists, then computational journalism/AI journalism will be a disaster.
"It is vital that human journalists continue to play a central role in the reviewing and monitoring of the automated news process," Prof. Pavlik underlined.
At the end of the interview with NBD, Prof. Pavlik put forward to two suggestions for AI applications in broadcast and media, and specifically for "NBD AI TV". He concluded, "First, the industry should consider forming a board of external advisors, independent journalists and journalism educators from around the world, who can help monitor that AI is used ethically in the news industry. Second, academic researchers should have access to data about these AI applications for conducting their own research on the use of AI in journalism and its impact on the industry."
National Business Daily (NBD) is one of the most influential, authoritative and trustworthy financial omnimedia agencies in China, and is also the most followed financial media outlet on Sina Weibo.
NBD has developed a media product matrix that has a more than 70 million users and generates views of over 30 billion annually, becoming one of China's leading financial media agencies in terms of reputation and influence.