The bots are coming and you have two options: Adapt or die.

The future of news is humans talking to machines

Joe Amditis
Oct 17, 2017 · 7 min read

Last month, the BBC’s Trushar Barot wrote a lengthy and substantive article for Nieman Lab, in which he argues that voice-activated artificial intelligence represents one of the biggest technological revolutions in the news industry since the first iPhone — possibly bigger. Despite the numerous implications of this emerging technology, Barot writes, publishers have largely ignored this “huge burning platform the news industry doesn’t even know it’s standing on.”

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Does the idea of talking to a news bot bother you? That is interesting. Please continue.

Okay, let’s assume the rise of bots and AI interfaces are inevitable. What does that actually mean, and what will that look like? Andrew Haeg of Groundsource wrote about a news bots workshop he attended in August at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in a piece for the Reynolds Journalism Institute. Haeg says the premise of the workshop was that bots “can help eliminate a lot of the pain and suffering involved in engaging audiences, and nudging them up the ladder to become subscribers or members.” Essentially, bots can help turn otherwise passive relationships between news producers and consumers into a more active and genuinely reciprocal exchange.

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AI, big data, and journalistic ethics

The utility of bots and artificial intelligence technology is clear, but what about the ethics of AI? Mike Azzara says just thinking about AI ethics makes his brain hurt. That shouldn’t be too surprising, especially considering how much of our lives are already influenced at various levels by some form of bot or artificial intelligence — and it’s only going to get worse (or better, depending on your perspective). The advertising and marketing industry, for example, have been largely unforthcoming about how much data they’ve been collecting, let alone what they plan to do with it.

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A messed up Google Home Mini recorded a tech reporter 24/7

So far, we’ve heard that 1) bots are inevitable; 2) bots are incredibly useful; and 3) bots can be an ethical minefield — but what about security and privacy? As you can see from this piece in TechCrunch by Taylor Hatmaker, the smallest technical slip or glitch can lead to a whole range of privacy and security issues for bots and artificial intelligence technologies.

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Upcoming trainings & events:

This one-hour webinar will dissect the rapidly-changing ways millennials consume news and information through scrolling, snapping and, of course, selfies. Don’t think a selfie can be news? Think again! This webinar will run on Oct. 20 starting at 2 p.m. More info.

Come make a Facebook Messenger bot with John Keefe, bot developer and app product manager at Quartz. Class meets Wednesdays, Oct. 25 and Nov. 1 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The cost for this workshop is $249. $199. More info.

Get up to speed with 360 video journalism from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and news organizations around the world. Learn how to use the emerging virtual reality medium in your newsroom to tell stories and connect with your audiences. Tickets to this workshop on Nov. 8 cost $99-$125. More info.

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The Center for Cooperative Media will curate information about our efforts and the work of our grantees, along with relevant industry trends via this monthly newsletter, the contents of which will also be published on the NJ Mobile News Lab blog.

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