Journalism Reconfigured: Assessing human–machine relations and the autonomous power of automation in news production

Shangyuan Wu, Edson C. Tandoc, Charles T. Salmon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Newsrooms are increasingly using automated technologies to manage the data deluge in this era of “big data”–tasks traditionally performed by human journalists are being taken over by machines, including the aggregation, prioritization, and writing of news. As machines become smarter and more capable of self-learning and self-judgment, an investigation into the social dynamics, and in turn, the power dynamics, of news production is warranted. This study uncovers the changing role of newsworkers vis-à-vis the machines through the stages of newsmaking and assesses the extent to which the machine is capable of augmenting and exerting power on the news production process. Guided by the actor-network theory, this study employs in-depth interviews with news editors managing teams of journalists to deconstruct their understanding of “automation” and journalism practice in the age of automation. Results reveal the transformative role of machines particularly in the news gathering and news distribution stages, and increasingly in the news writing stage. Newsworkers, however, maintain that they still hold the reins in all stages of the news production process, especially in the news selection and editing phases, suggesting their desire to protect their roles as the final arbiters of meaning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1440-1457
Number of pages18
JournalJournalism Studies
Volume20
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - 27 Jul 2019

Keywords

  • actor-network theory
  • algorithms
  • automated journalism
  • Automation
  • autonomous power
  • human-machine relations
  • news network
  • news production

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