Will the Journalists of the Future Be AI-Technologists?

Maria Selting
The Fulcrum
Published in
5 min readApr 24, 2020
Photo by Joël de Vriend on Unsplash

“Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth”. That’s the first out of ten principles that characterise good journalistic practice, listed in the book “The Elements of Journalism”*. Let’s pause here for a moment.


What is truth? The definition of truth is commonly held to be the opposite of falsehood. In other words, the truth is what is true. That doesn’t help us though, it’s just a circular argument. The bigger question is, how can we know what is true? In other words, what is knowledge?

Now, this is when it gets tricky. How can we ever know that what we think we know really is the truth? On a daily level, we claim to have “knowledge” on a broad variety of topics. But if we digest it further, how can we truly ever know that what we believe is true? How can I truly know that what I perceive as blue truly is blue? Animals can perceive sounds and light that we humans can not perceive. Science has throughout history proven itself wrong over and over again. Our “knowledge” about the world around us is under constant development.

This deeper philosophical question dissecting the true nature of knowledge is called Epistemology. The further you dig into the question, the more you realise that you cannot actually know for certain anything at all. This gives rise to scepticism, the philosophical standpoint that you cannot truly know anything at all. Apart from maybe the famous words “All I know is that I know nothing” believed to have been uttered by the ancient Socrates himself.

The Interconnectivity Between Journalism and Science
So if we cannot ever know that we have acquired knowledge about the truth, should we just give up? What does that then mean for journalism, whose first obligation is to, and to nothing but, the truth?

In regards to never giving up the search for truth, Einstein once said:

“Science is not about truth but about making what we know less false” — Albert Einstein.*

This is a pragmatic approach to a world full of uncertainties. It’s always better to get as close to the truth as we possibly can, instead of giving up. That is what unites scientists across the world, they are all a bunch of tireless truth seekers. And that is exactly what journalists are too, endlessly in search of the truth.

Or as Phil Meyer from University of North Carolina claims:

“Journalism and science come from the same intellectual roots”* — Phil Meyer.

Objective Journalism As a Method, Not a Human Skill
Within journalism, as in science, it is also important to maintain objectivity. However, can a journalist who is made of blood and flesh like the rest of us truly be objective?

According to Walter Lippman the answer is no, however his methods can be. A common misconception of journalism is that objectivity is viewed as the aim. Lippman instead stresses the importance of objectivity in the method. In order to develop high-level objective reporting journalists have developed methods of highest scientific virtues. We are all human beings and we are never free from subjectivity, but we can develop methods to eliminate our own impact on the outcome. In science, this means protecting research from biases. In journalism, this means protecting reporting from our own subjective views.

Now, where do I want to get with all of this? Today good quality journalism is threatened, from many different aspects. Artificial intelligence will gradually take over text production. Social media with its filter bubbles has hijacked the important role of the editor. Instead of securing an objective selection of news — which is the role of the editor — we are now served with news based on our own subjective likes and interests. The method that is supposed to protect us from our own subjectivity has been replaced by an echo chamber of our world view. Step by step, we are becoming passive consumers of news self-enhancing our own subjectivity. Fake news is also becoming increasingly advanced. The newest technology, deep fake, has now become so advanced it can create a fake video of a speech of the president of the United States.

How will all of this impact the future of the journalist profession?

Let’s go back to the underlying driving motivation — the why — of journalism. Journalists are tireless truth seekers. Who said that it necessarily means writing? The writing — or radio reporting and whatever means of reporting — is just the how. Going back to Lippman, journalism is after all about developing objective methods to find the truth.

With New Disruptive Technology, New Methods Will Arise
As technology develops, the core why of journalism remains the same. To find and communicate the truth to its citizens. The information feed and access to “knowledge” have never been bigger, and it just keeps growing day by day. As news on social media spreads within seconds, could the future of journalism instead be developing methods to quality-stamp content online?

Could the future of journalism be developing methods to reveal fake news?

Could the future of journalism be developing tools to help citizens think more critically about the information they consume?

Could the future of journalism be developing smart algorithms to help us fight the filter bubbles we’ve created for ourselves?

As artificial intelligence takes over the production of news, could the journalists’ profession gradually develop into the role of a scientist?

Could the future journalist be an AI-technologist?

The form — the how — of journalism has developed throughout all times. New communication technology has always forced journalistic methods to adapt to new forms of reporting. What’s important is not the form, its’ how, of journalism. What is important is that we protect its’ why. And that is that we must never give up the tireless search for the truth. And continue to develop methods to protect us from our own subjectivity and biases.

Luckily, it’s in our core human nature to search for the truth, so I feel hopeful that we never will.

*Kovach, B och Rosenstiel, B. (2007). The Elements of Journalism — What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should Expect. 1. ed. New York: Crown Publishing Group.



Maria Selting
The Fulcrum

Tech professional during the day. Philosopher at night. Politician in a past life. Connecting the dots between technology, politics, society and philosophy.