Journalism as we know today is no longer an `is’m. Like many `is’ms, it is doomed to become a `was’m. This is not exactly what Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama, the US political scientist and the author of famed essay `The End of History’ wrote. But the allusion in his argument holds good for the trade of journalism as the talk about technology shrinking the newsroom gets louder.
We are told on and off during many on-newsroom and off-newsroom discussions and conversations that journalism as it is known today is under siege. The general theory that is trending is: writers and editors will have to make room for the new kid on the block – Artificial Intelligence (AI) as newsrooms shrinks. This whisper is fast becoming an augmented reality as media houses start letting the AI elephant into the newsroom purportedly to stay tuned and connected with readers in the digital age.
A recent study by Reuters Institute lends credence to this alarmist view. It says almost three quarters of those surveyed in its 2018 annual digital leaders survey confirmed that they were already looking at Artificial Intelligence as a way of creating or distributing content more efficiently. This cast a long shadow over the traditional roles of the bearded and bespectacled editors in setting the agenda of a publication.
It is true and tested that like any workplace newsrooms are also prone to change as technology moves on to its next frontier. So far the new tools come handy for journalists to crunch data and churn out stories of a new genre faster. Technology enhances efficiency and speed of scribes, the two essential conditions to survive in today’s newsroom where shelf life of stories is fast shrinking thanks to information explosion and competition.
But it is too early to say that the Artificial Intelligence is poised to shrink the newsroom. The opposite – that technology may augment newsrooms – can also be true. Most of the technology enabled disruptive tools are still in their nascent stage of evolution. As of now, they are used to cut journalists daily chores by doing away with routine jobs thus giving them more time for doing creative jobs and tell stories of a different genre in more compelling ways.
The second issue is credibility and reliability of the reports. The news content is increasingly become focussed and personalised mirroring the fast changing media eco-system and the role of journalists. But this increases media organisations – and journalists’ – responsibility manifold in ensuring the credibility and reliability of the news and its contents. Also it is fact that technology is ownership neutral and devoid of any ideology. Therefore, giving a freehand to technology in collating necessary information at lightning speed is one thing and ensuring their credibility and reliability is another thing. It is only natural that if the technology finds its way to wrong hands it can lead to what is called “weaponisation” of information spewing out misinformation or disinformation on a massive scale. Therefore, human oversight over news and reports has to stay to avoid such perilous outcomes.
Therefore, journalists can forget worrying about the future of their jobs for now, though their roles may change in sync with changing technology. As long as journalist keeps their ethics and human judgement above all other considerations journalism as it is known today is and will remain as an `is’m. Let Fukuyama be proved once again wrong in the wider interest of responsible journalism.
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