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Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post has developed an AI bot called Heliograf which is used to write some of their more mundane news stories. The bot has been used for things like covering high school sports and election results. Other news rooms are following the lead. Bloomberg has a bot called Cyborg, Forbes has Bertie, the Guardian has ReporterMate, and Associated Press is using AI too.
The advantages of automated journalism is that news reports can be created more quickly with potentially fewer errors. Stories can be told in multiple languages and delivered from different perspectives and writing styles. The algorithms can also be set up to answer questions from the user based on the content consumed by the algorithm.
Jeremy Gilbert, director at the Washington Post, said that “Heliograf is creating a new model for hyperlocal coverage. In the past, it would not have been possible for The Post to staff more than a handful of the most significant games each week. Now, we’ll be able to cover any game that we have data for, giving the teams and fans near-instant coverage to read and share.” In 2018, the Washington Post won the “Excellence in Use of Bots” award for Heliograf.
Are reporter jobs at risk? Lisa Gibbs, director at the Associated Press, said that “the work of journalism is creative, it’s about curiosity, it’s about storytelling, it’s about digging and holding governments accountable, it’s critical thinking, it’s judgment — and that is where we want our journalists spending their energy.”