OMG! The Robo-Journo Has Arrived. It’s Going to Be OK.

robotEverybody take a deep breath. Robots are not journalists, and they aren’t going to take over the publishing industry. Or will they?

Since it came out that the L.A. Times used an algorithm to report on an earthquake, it seems that robots are going to take over all of journalism. There’s a good case for using technology like this: stories on sports, financial news, weather; probably half of the press releases about amazing new mobile apps I get, could probably be written with a code. There’s also a good case for why it’s still sort of uncharted territory that needs to be built upon and perfected.

And it’s prompted some  good questions: Who owns the copyright? Where and when would it be more efficient? If stories are generated using a code, does that change how humans interact with it? Does the code know ethics?

What’s irks me is the narrative of the news. Notice that “algorithm” or “source code” aren’t in the headlines. From HuffPo to Slate, even Wired on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, the story is that very human-looking robots are now writing stories. Check out the visuals:



Come on, guys. If all we do is talk about “robot journalism” in this click-baity way — we deserve to have robots “replace us.” I guess I should have expected it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Are we just in shock as to how cool it is? I hope so, because the implied “OMG!!!!!” in the way the story’s been delivered since yesterday gets in the way of having an actual, useful and interesting discussion about how to use the technology. There should probably be a guy in your newsroom playing around with how you can use it for obituaries or something right now. If algorithms can take care of the boring stuff a little cheaper, then maybe we can find some extra cash and time for investigations or exploring how to optimize our mobile presence.

Once you get into everyone’s piece on the “quakebot” it turns out we’re not as shocked as we implied on social media. But if I see one more lanky robo-journo hunched over with  pencil (why wouldn’t he be using a computer?)  — well, I’ll just rant about it on Twitter.

What’s the best headline about the robot journalists you’ve seen? Share in the comments or retweet them to us @10,000Words