Can Artificial Intelligence Ever Replace Royal Rota Journalism?
This weeks podcast, takes a brief look into the world of Artificial Intelligence, and its place in an employment setting. Does it take jobs away from people, or does it free people up to do other things? I suspect it is a bit of both. In the setting where the tasks undertaken are repetitive, and do not take much thinking time, in order to produce the final outcome, there could be an argument for AI to find a home.
Royal Reporting is carried out by all the tabloids in the UK, and they all pretty much produce articles on the same topics and people every day. The analyst in me wonders why so many people have a job where they only write about a handful of people, and in reality, the majority of the subjects for the article are no longer working Royals anyway, so do not come under the remit of the Royal Rota. It seems money is the magnet. The printed and online media make more money for their packaged products when they write about the couple who stepped back and moved to another country. The fact that UK media is still harassing and abusing them, is a topic of previous podcasts, and I am fairly confident it will form part of some kind of legal action in years to come.
For this purpose of looking at AI, I consider that the number of journalists working in the Rota is at least three times too large for the targets of their remit, and for the final outcome of the product. When it gets to the stage that that each tabloid can churn out 5 articles per hour on The Sussexes and only write about one or more in a day of the Working Royals in the UK, then it indicates to me, that the content of those 5 articles per hour, are not deep, did not take much if any research and could be carried out by AI.
There is an argument to also reduce the number of tabloid newspapers. They all write about the same thing. The all go to Royal briefings and therefore churn out the same articles with the spin as requested by the Palace. Readership is down on all publications, and has been for years. To have half a dozen or so newspapers write about the same topics, in the same basic tabloid salacious style, it does not make business sense to continue. Time to reduce the number of tabloids, and to bring in AI into the reporting cycle, and have a small group in the Royal Rota, responsible for the final output. I personally would like to see a revolving door type of arrangement with the Royal Rota, which would take away the possibility of becoming too close with their allocated Royal. The lack of objectivity in terms of the content of reporting by a member of the Royal Rota and their allocated Royal is patently obvious.
I know very little about AI and when I started researching for this podcast, I knew nothing. I am however, experienced and qualified in workforce planning and job outputs, and strategies in preparing the workforce for changing forces coming over the hill etc. So, my above comments relate purely to my workforce analyst background. I hope, that like myself, you will see the emergence of a whole new area of collecting data and producing reports etc that is going on now, within many industries, some of whom are world famous brands.
So, lets explore the world of AI and then come back to what this could mean to Journalism, but particularly to the Royal Rota, and decide for yourselves whether the Rota will remain in its current state, in the spirit of the Royal Family does. Ie stay clear of modern methods and ways of working. Stick with certain ways of working because it suits them, rather than change and become efficient
What is Artificial Intelligence?
Examples of Organisations who are Using AI in the workplace
Artificial intelligence (AI) is shaking up present-day journalism. Automated news writing and distribution, without human supervision, is already a reality, often unbeknownst to the reader. This raises a number of basic questions. What will journalists of the future have to learn? Is this new reality likely to improve the working conditions in the industry? What do media businesses stand to gain and lose?
The fourth industrial revolution is stirring up a cocktail of changes in the world of work, and, in the case of the European media, comes at a time when jobs in the industry are precarious (ever-fewer payroll employees and ever-growing numbers of low-paid freelancers) and investment in innovation is severely lacking (such as new tools or staff training). Projects putting their money on innovation have nonetheless started to emerge.
In 2015, the Norwegian News Agency (NTB) started work on a project to generate automated football news coverage, which was launched in 2016. Together with experts in artificial intelligence, a group of journalists learned new skills whilst the robot was being “trained”, a decision crucial to the development of the algorithm.
“A large amount of editorial input is needed to help the robot make the right choices. This learning process in the newsroom has led to many new ideas about possible areas of automation: from simple news regarding the weather and commodity prices to an ambitious plan to offer fully automated election night services for the local election in Norway next year,” explains Helen Vogt, who recently retired after a 42-year-long career in the media.
The automated news reports are supervised by a team of journalists and have proved to be 99 per cent reliable. In the case of events the algorithm is unable to predict, if an incident leads to a match being cancelled, for instance, the robot would have no way of knowing the causes, so it is programmed not to write anything if a match is suspended, explains Vogt.
Automated news production can be seen as a continuation of the automation that began in newsrooms in the late 1980s, and the continuation of data-driven journalism.
“If journalists cannot compete with those systems, which will always be faster, they can make use of them for investigative work or to support their daily routines,” says Laurence Dierickx, a freelance journalist/developer and PhD student at the Belgian university ULB-ReSIC, where she is doing research into automated news production and how journalists use it.
Can it ever replace Journalists or Free Them Up to Take on Other Tasks?
The following is an extract from a Blog about the best AI Writer of 2002. Extract is as follows:- “AI stands for Artificial Intelligence. AI writers are programs that automate the writing process using the software.
Programs that use artificial intelligence do not have any human-like qualities, they are purely algorithmic and cannot speak. Programs that use AI write articles based on keywords. Keywords are words or phrases that we want our article to be associated with. These keywords are entered into a database, and the program looks at what similar articles are being written about. It then selects the best keywords to describe those articles and writes the content around them. It’s really quite simple!
- Another extract from another trial underway:- In his 2019 survey of 71 news organisations in 32 countries in Europe, North America, South America and Asia, Charlie Beckett, director of the Journalism AIproject, reported that nearly four out of ten organisations have already deployed artificial intelligence strategies.
- The term Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a somewhat catch-all term that refers to the different possibilities offered by recent technological developments. From machine learning to natural language processing, news organisations can use AI to automate a huge number of tasks that make up the chain of journalistic production, including detecting, extracting and verifying data, producing stories and graphics, publishing (with sorting, selection and prioritisation filters) and automatically tagging articles.
- These systems offer numerous advantages: speed in executing complex procedures based on large volumes of data; support for journalistic routines through alerts on events and the provision of draft texts to be supplemented with contextual information; an expansion of media coverage to areas that were previously either not covered or not well covered (the results of matches between ‘small’ sports clubs, for example); optimisation of real-time news coverage; strengthening a media outlet’s ties with its audiences by providing them with personalised context according to their location or preferences; and more.
- But there is a flipside to the coin: the efficiency of these systems depends on the availability and the quality of datafed into them. The principle of garbage in, garbage out (GIGO), tried and tested in the IT world, essentially states that without reliable, accurate and precise input, it is impossible to obtain reliable, accurate and precise output.
- News automation is the most visible aspect of this phenomenon and has undoubtedly given rise to the most heated debates within the journalistic profession. The idea of ‘robot journalism’ as it is often called has contributed to visions both dystopian and utopian.
- At its worst, automation could threaten jobs and journalistic identity by taking over work usually done by humans. At its best, it could lead to a renewal of journalism by taking over repetitive and time-consuming tasks, freeing up journalists to focus on producing content with high added value.
- But the automation of journalistic production methods is not limited to the generation of texts. The BBC recently introduced a synthetic voiceto read aloud the articles published on its website; last year, Reuters launched an automated video system to cover sports matches.
The challenges of employment and training
With experiments in automation on the rise, news agencies are amongst the most interested parties despite the rather limited areas that AI covers (sport, the economy, the environment and election results). In a 2017 study, Austrian journalist Alexander Fanta found that a majority of European news agencies had embraced automation. According to Fanta, “machine-written stories lack in depth and critical examination of the presented facts, but can provide a quick summary of news figures or a first version of a story.”
There is currently no evidence to suggest that the automation of news production is linked loss of employment. The only company that has resorted to mass redundancy in a move to ‘fully automate’ is tech giant Microsoft at its MSN News portal. But while rare, there is evidence to suggest that freelancers occasionally lose out on a job to automation, proof that there is no such thing as zero risk against a backdrop of economic fragility for the news media.
But while anxieties regarding employment are legitimate, it is important to remember that journalism is more than just the sum of its parts and the profession’s human character cannot be automated. Journalists provide more than just information. As former journalist and professor at the University of Porto Fernando Zamith argues: “Accuracy requires proper verification. Robots cannot get it right every time.”
- Significant breakthroughs in the capabilities of machine learning (ML) algorithms in recent years coupled with advancements in imaging tools have precipitated a revolution in automated medical image analysis. ML-based methods are increasingly being used to extract data from diverse imaging modalities and guide clinical decision making in a range of specialties including radiology, ophthalmology, neurology, respiratory medicine and cancer.
- This Collection aims to bring together original research on all aspects of ML-based medical image analysis, including but not limited to technological developments and new clinical applications.
The new virtual AI news anchor from Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, is named Xin Xiaowei, modelled after Zhao Wanwei, one of the agency’s human news presenters.
By John P. Desmond, AI Trends Editor
AI can potentially save journalism, or AI is going to take over some writing and take away even more jobs – which is it?
In the optimistic view, the future of journalism could lie in AI, according to a new book from Francesco Marconi, a professor of journalism at Columbia University in New York, Newsmakers, Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Journalism. He was head of the media lab at the Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press, one of the largest news organizations in the world.
The journalism world is not keeping pace with new technologies, so newsrooms need to use what AI can offer and come up with a new business model, suggests Patrick White, a professor of journalism at the University of Quebec, writing about Marconi’s book in The Conversation. White was the founder of the Quebec edition of Huffington Post, which is managed from 2011 to 2018. He has a range of experience in Canadian print and television journalism.
Patrick White, professor of journalism, University of Quebec
“AI needs to be at the heart of journalism’s business model in the future,” White writes, noting several examples of how AI is used by newsrooms today. The Canadian Press news agency developed a system to speed up translations based on AI. The Agence France-Presse ( AFP) news agency uses AI to detect doctored photos.
Can it Replace the Royal Rota?
The Royal Rota is a the press pool that covers the British Royal Family. They are meant to report on royal events with the understanding that that the news and photographs taken at any event will be freely shared with other members of the media. The theory of this system is that it reduces the number of media personnel that otherwise attend, which helps to alleviate space and security concerns.
My opinion is that is has become like a private club and the same personnel are always in attendance. It can lead to an erosion of boundaries between journalist and the Royal Family. Some of those media personnel act as if they are close friends of the British Royal Family.
The News Media Association which represent print journalism, includes the Daily Express, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, the Evening Standard, The Telegraph, The Times and The Sun.
I do not believe that the Rota journalists produce any type of detailed news content. Things are stated in articles, with no fact checking, and always an abundance of mystery “sources”, which basically means information from their fellow colleagues in the Rota.
Artificial Intelligence could easily do what they do, and would in fact collect a whole lot more of valuable data, both in terms of content, as well as time taken to gather and produce a report on such topics. I believe that all journalists should be able to spend time in the Royal Rota, and likewise the current group, need to go out and work with journalists who have to check facts before printing, though I admit the newspapers that form the heart of this group, are far from exemplary. Such is the poor quality of UK printed and televised media.
- There are around a dozen working Royals, and of those 7 are regarded as Key Workers.
- There are at least 20 Royal Rota journalists, though we do tend to see the same ones most of the time, which is a much smaller total.
- The Royal Rota journalists, have spent the last 6 years writing about The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and for the last 2 years, the Sussexes are independently financed and do not work with the Rota. Begs the question then, how many do we need in the Rota, when for the last 2 years in particular, they are not paid to write about The Sussexes and they barely write about the Royal Family they are employed to promote.
- Do we need 20+ people to write about 7 Royals, even if they turned their attention to the Royal Family?
- The King has stated that the Royal Family will be reduced in size, in terms of working Royals, which begs the question even more, why do we need so many in the Rota?
- The Rota have been publishing around 5 articles an hour, over the ten days of mourning for the Queen. I would respectfully suggest that any article that is produced and issued in that kind of turnaround each day, does not contain or require rocket science skills to produce the end product. AI is suitable for extracting data and tracking trends at speed, and producing quick reports. This would be useful for real journalists who are employed to investigate and check facts before publishing articles. Real journalists would benefit from the data sources being checked by AI and then passed on to the journalists to produce their article on that data and research, or possibly follow up on further research to complete the circle.
- If Rota journalists are producing 5 articles every hour on the Sussexes, in my personal opinion the article is not based on fact but opinion. Opinion that is biased from the outset.
- Less than 5% of articles are written about the 7 working Royals currently in place, and they are all positive and fluffy, and definitely not what would have been received from a quality newspaper years ago. The standard is tabloid gossip for clickbait, with no regard to the damage that could occur with the target.
- If the Royal Family are going to have less people ‘working’ then the business and workforce model needs to change to reflect this too.
- There is no need for 20+ journalists to be in the Royal Rota for 7 or less people. What they write a child in secondary school could produce. Further more, in terms of data gathering, AI could be utilised in that group. Nothing that the Rota is doing requires much skill.
- It is hard to see the VFM to employ so many journalists who only cover tabloids, and who produce articles on the same topics every day. What is the point of that duplication? The circulation figures for all of them are still falling. There needs to be a root and branch pruning of Royal Reporting, not least because their own Rota does not feel the need to write about them every day, yet they do pursue and write about two people who no longer live in the UK, and are self financing. I feel sure legal intervention is needed and soon.
I am certain, just like the Royal Family, the Royal Rota and its printed media owners, will not want to change from the current formula, not least because it keeps them in business, albeit with falling figures. It is obvious to everyone, that there is limited appeal or interest in the UK Royals, outside of a special occasion. Even their own Royal Rota shows no desire to write about the Royal family, even in their simplistic bland hero worshipping style. When your own media team, show no interest in writing about you, the red flags are there. All UK media has discovered that hate sells, and their newspaper columns are full of hate inciting rhetoric, and whilst they are very careful about the hate they are inciting from people, it is clearly there. If you visit the comment section of the tabloids, they are full of bile and toxic rhetoric, and it will only take one hot head to go in search of a victim.
Ultimately I do think that AI will free up journalists to do the real work and not be tied down with data collection and analysis. AI can do that and produce the reports needed for further work to be carried out. However, as the media industry seems to be in a downward spiral in terms of readership and sales, and this has gone on now for many years, it seems that some job losses are inevitable, and then there will be a close look at the duties and tasks carried out by journalists and then decisions made which ones can be done by AI, which will leave journalists time to do what they were trained to do.
Royal Rota quick turnaround of articles containing toxicity is not quality or clever journalism. People the subject of these types of articles have taken their own lives as a result of sustained campaign of hate by UK tabloid papers. I believe that the Royal family would want the Rota staff to have the same input on how an article spins a particular tale. After all, Rota are the propaganda arm of the Royal family. The Royal family have to look good at most times in their press. I do think however, that the numbers in the Rota could be reduced by 2/3rds, and even with bias, the outputs would show a difference I terms of total published.
I feel the same way about podcasts. If there are lots of podcasts out there reporting on the same topic each day, there comes a point where the listener will pick the best ones, and support those only. There is nothing to be gained by someone talking about the same topic you have just heard about elsewhere. If the style is different, then by all means, do it, but if it is the same style with a different presenter, then ultimately the figures will reduce.
In conclusion then, I would say that AI will play an increasing role in the world of journalism, and it will ultimately not be the cause of loss of employment. Research to date indicates that people have not lost employment yet due to AI, but that seems to assume that the numbers employed was about correct in the first place. In the case of UK media coverage, and the falling statistics for sales and readership (even the online editions are losing readership), which suggests that the numbers employed need to be revisited. I definitely believe that in the case of the Royal Rota, the numbers are way too high for the content produced. Content which is part of 5 per hour, is not quality, and is there just to get something out there. That is not journalism. When that content is toxic filled and hate inciting about two people that you have no business writing about anyway, it makes it all the more bizarre. If it came to it, AI could more than take over that function, and produce more than 5 per hour, so Rota personnel, you should think on, because although the Royals are not known for progress or new ways of working, no newspaper baron is going to continue to employ the same numbers of journalists, including Royal Rota, when they have been losing money for many years. Something will have to give. There is zero logic to have the number which are considered to be Rota journalists covering a small group of Royals, who constitute a third of the size of the Rota personnel. It is the same journalists more or less anyway, who actually get to work with the Royals, and I would argue that there are still too many of you.
If the Rota does not embrace AI then the outcome is that you will remain very much like the Monarchy itself. In my opinion, I do believe that the UK Monarchy is on the decline. I would also add that the style and content of the articles about the Royals does them no favours, not least because they rarely report on a topic subject that UK taxpayers would like to read about, but all articles are in glowing terms, when that is clearly not the case. UK journalism needs a revamp.
25 Sept 2022
Artificial intelligence in Journalism. | by Artificial Intelligence + | Star Gazers | Medium The Role of AI in Journalism