Could robots someday replace journalists?

CREATED Mar 21, 2014

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MILWAUKEE - Robots have taken over countless jobs that used to be done by humans. They drive cars, analyze documents, fill prescriptions, and run the checkout line at stores.  Now they're moving into journalism.

When an earthquake hit Los Angeles earlier this week, the LA Times had an article published online within 3 minutes. And Slate.com reports it's all because a robot called Quakebot wrote it.   

"This seems to me to be a very interesting development and may actually make the role of journalists a little bit easier," said Randall Davidson, Director of Radio Services at UW-Oshkosh. 

So-called robot journalism is another example of reporters taking advantage of the latest technology.

"There's always been an adoption by reporters of anything that makes the job easier and anything that makes the reporting better."

A human still had to approve the earthquake story before it went online, but the robot did what it was supposed to: it got the story up right away. 

But that wasn't the end of it. Real reporters added details to later versions of the story.

"There's more to it than just that story. They didn't leave it with just the story generated by the bot.  It was a starting point," explained Davidson.

Robots could serve as a tool to help reporters with some of the more fill-in-the-blank type stories.

"You know, X number of people were in X number of car crashes on highway X at X o'clock this morning."

But robots couldn't cover everything.

"The day to day reporting, the covering of lawmakers, covering of police beat stories, covering of natural disasters, things like that, I think humans are going to be needed for a very, very long time," said Davidson.

And that is good news for reporters everywhere.