Will a robot take your place?

05 February 2014

Laure Nouraout

We hear data. We hear algorithms. We hear automated articles... But what exactly is Robot Journalism? How far has it gone? How is it changing journalism? What are the downsides? These are some of the questions asked - and answered - at our Robot Journalism Bootcamp run by Yves Eudes, senior reporter at Le Monde, robot journalism specialist and speaker at the GEN Summit 2014.

512Px Toy Robot

By Jonathan McIntosh (Own work) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sports, finance, natural disasters, and data: these are the fields that robot journalism has already touched. A number of media organisations – and even the CIA – are investing and innovating in this new information-gathering technology.

Bertrand Pecquerie, CEO of GEN, explains why this topic will be covered at the summit: 'After drone journalism last year, we wanted to take on another cutting edge topic. The goal of the first day of the conference is to focus on forward-thinking: not what to implement right now but what editors-in-chief need to think about for the years to come, so they can anticipate major innovations. Robot journalism is exactly at this stage. It was developed by universities and at the moment, less than 10 start-ups worldwide are working on it. Nevertheless, robot journalism promises to be developed and used in a few specific cases: sports, financial or economic coverage, so basically, where you have data and figures.'

As fear of what this development will do to journalism arises, Pecquerie remains optimistic, imagining that robots can make journalism more interesting: 'Basic tasks will be done by computers, so human beings will be focused on analysis and commentary. But the debate continues: will robots be good or bad for journalists?'

The bootcamp will not be a theoretical debate, but a conversation on shared experiences with:

  • Larry Birnbaum, professor at Northwestern and considered as the 'father' of robot journalism.
  • Brian Timpone, CEO of Local Labs, one of the start-ups working on robot journalism.

Learn more about robot-journalism: