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This text was written by a robot

This text was written by a robot

Really? Artificial intelligence is on the rise, but how far will it advance? Will it soon even make journalists unemployed and to what changes would that lead in the writing branch?

Robots in editorial offices?
Automation and algorithms: In the minds of editors, these terms were previously used primarily for IT, for example as the basis for a text program, an editorial system, a website or an app. But media work requires more than an automated key jingle. Does it? At the event “Mediensalon” under the theme “Robo editorial offices and automated texts” of the german journalists Union (dju) as part of the labor union ver.di, DJV Berlin and meko factory in cooperation with the Vodafone Institute, almost 50 guests recently exchanged views on the influence of artificial intelligence in journalism – and all that over the rooftops of Berlin in the capital office of Vodafone.

Fearing to lose their job? Jan Georg Plavec and Sonja Peteranderl talking. (Photo: Henrik Andree/meko factory)

Robo texts are already a reality!
Journalist Sonja Peteranderl (e.g. “Spiegel Online, “Wired”), who reported on American robo editorial offices for the media magazine “Journalist”, knows: “Publishing houses and media houses now also use algorithms for text production. Automated text writing is gaining worldwide acceptance.” The USA, where, for example, the AP news agency or the Washington Post rely on robo texts, are pioneers. But not only in Washington, also in Swabia in southern Germany, text automation comes into play where the evaluation of data is concerned: podium guest Jan Georg Plavec, editor in the multimedia/report department of the Stuttgarter Zeitung and Stuttgarter Nachrichten, explained how the “fine dust radar” automatically generates reports from weather information and data from hundreds of privately suspended fine dust sensors in the morning and evening on how polluted the air in Stuttgart is.

Where is the human factor?
It would be impossible to imagine automated journalism without it, says expert Sonja Peteranderl. The earthquake tweet of the QuakeBot of the Los Angeles Times made headlines last summer in California due to a data error. Automated text production does not work without ethics and transparency. “Because it becomes ethical if you pass it off as journalism,” warns Sissy Pitzer, responsible for the media magazine at BR Radio. For this reason, like the others, she calls for the labelling of automatically produced texts, and the data basis must also be mentioned. So this is not the end of editorial Offices yet, according to the tenor of the event: “In practice, AI is still more of an experimental field in journalism. Most would like to use the potentials”, says Friedrich Pohl, Head of Communication at the Vodafone Institute.

Will AI unemploy journalists? (Photo: Henrik Andree/meko factory)