John Micklethwait, Editor-in-Chief of Bloomberg gave a very candor keynote at the GEN Summit 2019 about the way he sees the transitions that the world of journalism is going through. “The internet was never the problem, it was our reaction to it”, he opened, “we are the ones that convinced that readers that they don’t have to pay for our content”. He spoke about trends in AI and their impact on journalism.
The new thing troubling newsrooms is AI — how, and how much. “The two fears are that, one, journalists replaced by robots. And two, that the quality will go down as fake news proliferates and consumers gather in ghettos of information”.
“At Bloomberg roughly a third of what we do has some element of automation”, but Micklethwait said, not at the expanse of journalists, “We need journalists to say to cyborg what to look for, humans to double check. Rather than machines replacing humans, it tends to be humans and machines working together”. The need for AI in Bloomberg has “less to do with saving money, and more to do with being able to cover far more companies than we could before, and to do it in a broader way.
Another positive impact of AI, according Micklethwait, is automated translation. It will allow us to be more equal in terms of who you hire. It makes more sense to hire the best local reporters, no matter their fluency in the language of the newsroom, and then automatically translate their work”.
Micklethwait was also optimistic about personalization: “the holy Grail of what we are trying to do. What we can now do is to begin to target things slightly better”.
“I think the human point of journalism still maters. Machines don’t have self-control. Readers in particular like to see editors and journalists as a filter and a barrier as much as a provider”. Micklethwait also promised that there is still room for long form quality journalism, “In general, the result of all of this technology will be stories that are shorter and tighter. But reading 25 short blog posts is not always the best use of a reader’s time. Sometimes the most efficient thing for them is just sitting down with one long, well written article that offers all the context needed.