Automated systems present trade-offs in craft. In the academic journal DIGITAL JOURNALISM, authors Rhianne Jones and Bronwyn Jones examine two R&D systems at BBC. Among several observations, they find readying material for algorithmic processing takes more time than writing for traditional storytelling with a beginning, middle and end in a fixed format. The extra effort is required to prepare the information for faster, automated retrieval at some future point.
‘We find journalists are “writing for machines” by converting unstructured information into structured data to enable automated recombination and future re-use of content. This impacts editorial control by delegating responsibility to either the algorithm or the audience, in the name of choice.’Rhianne Jones & Bronwyn Jones
Their article locates public service media in the current news automation discussion and contributes to a void in the literature about PSMs and AI systems. The authors put forward ideas for further research including implications of structured journalism. Both authors work at BBC.
- Rhianne Jones – Senior researcher in BBC R&D
- Bronwyn Jones – BBC journalist.
‘The field of data-driven news production and delivery is maturing, and public service media are among a wide range of news organisations innovating to exploit these advances. This article extends the literature on computational journalism by analysing two of the BBC’s recent experiments in “atomizing” the news–an object-based approach, which seeks to make news more adaptable and scalable using media components that can be automatically and algorithmically combined in multiple ways. Findings suggest atomised news is viewed by the organisation as offering opportunities for greater efficiency and personalisation and sits within a broader turn towards “structured journalism.” We highlight three characteristics of atomisation—recording, recombining and re-use—to illustrate how it breaks from traditional approaches. We find journalists are “writing for machines” by converting unstructured information into structured data to enable automated recombination and future re-use of content. This impacts editorial control by delegating responsibility to either the algorithm or the audience, in the name of choice. We propose a research agenda that maps the field of structured journalism, contextualises it in the politics of data and technology, and further considers the implications for public service journalism.’
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Jones, R & Jones, B (2019) ‘Atomising the News: The (In)Flexibility of Structured Journalism,’ Digital Journalism, DOI: 10.1080/21670811.2019.1609372