From hidden connections in big data to bots spreading fake news, journalism is increasingly computer-generated. An expert in computer science and media explains the present and future of a world in which news is created by algorithm.
Amid the push for self-driving cars and the roboticization of industrial economies, automation has proven one of the biggest news stories of our time. Yet the wide-scale automation of the news itself has largely escaped attention. In this lively exposé of that rapidly shifting terrain, Nicholas Diakopoulos focuses on the people who tell the stories—increasingly with the help of computer algorithms that are fundamentally changing the creation, dissemination, and reception of the news.
Diakopoulos reveals how machine learning and data mining have transformed investigative journalism. Newsbots converse with social media audiences, distributing stories and receiving feedback. Online media has become a platform for A/B testing of content, helping journalists to better understand what moves audiences. Algorithms can even draft certain kinds of stories. These techniques enable media organizations to take advantage of experiments and economies of scale, enhancing the sustainability of the fourth estate. But they also place pressure on editorial decision-making, because they allow journalists to produce more stories, sometimes better ones, but rarely both.
Automating the News responds to hype and fears surrounding journalistic algorithms by exploring the human influence embedded in automation. Though the effects of automation are deep, Diakopoulos shows that journalists are at little risk of being displaced. With algorithms at their fingertips, they may work differently and tell different stories than they otherwise would, but their values remain the driving force behind the news. The human–algorithm hybrid thus emerges as the latest embodiment of an age-old tension between commercial imperatives and journalistic principles.
Moves us forward and spells out with absolute clarity just why algorithms are rewriting the media, and where the wins and the potential losses are.
It deserves praise for shedding light on such an important subject…At a time of general anxiety about the future of media, Diakopoulos’ can-do attitude is a refreshing antidote.
Diakopoulos provides deep discussion of the theory and practice of journalism automation, grounded in significant research and interviews with leading practitioners. The result is a trailblazing book full of information that has not appeared anywhere else.
Algorithms are changing the ways stories are discovered, told, and distributed—for good and for ill. Automating the News expertly explains how the combination of computation and journalism is evolving, with insights of great interest to reporters, researchers, and readers.
This book provides a comprehensive, evidence-based, and cautiously optimistic analysis of how automation is changing journalism—and how journalism in turn needs to change to make better use of automation. Diakopoulos documents how technology is increasingly supplementing—not replacing—human work in newsrooms, discusses the potential and very real limitation of new tools, and identifies ways in which reporting can evolve to better hold algorithms and those behind them accountable. An important and actionable analysis.
- 2020, Winner of the Tankard Book Award
- 336 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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