Are journalists replaceable?

The year is 1950, Norbert Wiener published ‘The Human use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society’, a man way beyond his years left us with a small little warning. He said, “The world of the future will be an even more demanding struggle against the limitations of our intelligence, not a comfortable hammock in which we can lie down to be waited upon by our robot slaves.”  Today the future is here, is a real person writing this blog? Maybe you’re right, maybe not.

But these days, a rather large amount of what you read on the internet is created not by humans, but by computer algorithms in the form of automated reporting. It makes sense as you see 24 hour news channels break news at 3 or 4 in the morning, it was bound that questions will be asked sooner or later.

“It’s understandable. The multitude of digital avenues now available to us demand content with an appetite that human effort can no longer satisfy.”

It so simple, why wouldn’t media worldwide embrace it? All you do is put in data and statistics and you get a narrative that communicates what must be said.

Where it gets interesting is that although its cost effective and some journalists would inevitably get retrenched, the quality of journalism would massively improve which is what the media industry is crying out for, or well at least South Africa media. Investigative journalism has been on the downhill, there is no funds and extra time for them anymore. Robo-journalists give human journalists the freedom to thoroughly investigate stories without the burden of doing other things at the same time like rewriting press releases and etc.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying that robots cannot critically analyze or think, I’ve played chess against a computer and it calculated every situation possible no matter what my next move was but what I am saying is that after researching this topic, I get the idea that they don’t have that software yet to enhance the robo-journalist to become an investigative journalist.

All the other arguments have said that journalists are safe because humans have the talent edge in terms of building contacts and have perseverance and manipulating people to give you information. Which is all valid points but in my opinion, it is the ability to trick humans with false equivalencies, the ability to have a bias that isn’t obvious to spot is what keeps journalists like me safe.

The needs that we have, in terms of income and food- that forces us to abide by the company agenda’s or political beliefs is what keeps us industry.

Once media companies can’t force self-censorship onto journalists, media will truly be free and how many owners of media companies actually wants that to happen?


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