Cars are machines, that have made it easier for humans to get from one place to another. Inevitably technology has made living for human beings quite simple, and we in turn love that! But what happens when the profession you have invested half of your adulthood to suddenly gets “snatched” by a machine?   Robots are being perceived as being better human being story tellers, than the actual human beings themselves are.

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We are living in a world where regardless of your profession, your position at some point will get replaced by a machine. I want to place a greater emphasis on, automated reporting better known as robojournalism. According to What.Is.com  robojournalism is the use of software programs to generate articles, without any human intervention.

For example when an earthquake struck Los Angeles in the early morning hours of February 1, 2014, a content generation algorithm created by programmer/journalist Ken Schwencke posted the story to the L.A. Times within eight minutes of the tremor, complete with a map pinpointing the epicenter.

 

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Robots are not only cheaper but faster and have the ability to generate news articles in an estimation of 10 minutes or less. Hein Marias of  the Daily Maverick in June 2012, wrote an article on (Robojournalism: How afraid should we be?). In this article he identified robojournalism as “…one more way to trim costs and amp up profits.The economics are obvious. It’s cheaper to subscribe to the algorithm-spawn than it is to pay a pod of young reporters a living wage…”

Yes, undoubtedly robots are invented with artificial intelligence, but being a journalism student myself I am learning that some stories require human sensitivity that robots do not have. Machines don’t have the emotional intelligence that humans do. Nikiwe Bikitsha CEO of Amargi Media, stated in an interview  “… journalism is all about, the enormous responsibility we have to the audiences or the readers or listeners that we serve.”.

Looking back at South Africa’s media landscape history, what recently happened with the SABC 8 and the censorship saga. This immediately poses a question of is South Africa ready for the invasion of the machines in the newsroom,radio and broadcast? Well, Michael Salzwedel who was the digital media specialist at SABC News seems to disagree “…robots can’t think like humans (yet). Journalists and editors are paid to think, to discern, to make decisions…Robots just aren’t quite there yet.” He further added in the article “Robo-journalists are great for creating simple stories in seconds, but they can’t pick an angle, investigate inconsistencies or controversies…”.

Imagine a robot reading, in isiXhosa the 8 o’clock news. It’ll probably sound like a Metrorail programmed announcer, broadcasting train delays instead of the evening news. Journalist have that authenticity and human relation that  ordinary citizens can relate to. While robots may not ask for a salary increase nor be late for work, human beings are far more characterized than robots will ever be. So for now, the rising iron age can stay in its lane and allow journalists to flourish.

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