Remember when you and your family would gather evenings around the television to watch Riaan Cruywagen tell you the news? Or even around the radio to listen to stories and page through a newspaper. And we would all watch Carte Blanche Sunday evenings right before the 8 PM movie. And we thought video killed the radio star.
“No doubt. Technology is the future. Look at social media today…for millions, the smart phone (through platforms) has become the first source of news and information. Traditional media may not die, but technology is affecting them.” – Yusuf Abramjee, social activist.
So when exactly did all of this change? When did people start to expect news and information to appear for free at their fingertips?
According to John Boitnott from .INC, as a TV and radio reporter back in the 90’s and 2000’s, he saw this huge shift in the media landscape. According to Boitnott, by the time he started working at NBC Bay Area in 2006, “millions of viewers had already completely moved on to the internet instead of turning on the TV each morning”. And according to Lise Lareau from Ephemera, it has only progressed more and more since.
James P. Mahon, a news reporter in Tennessee, has the opinion that “traditional television news may not even exist in 15 years’ time, but media audiences will continue to crave real stories”. He predicts news on a cross-platform basis, with bite-size stories in a visual and engaging manner.
But, as Boitnott and Mahon point out, not only media audiences changed but the newsrooms as well. At the beginning, it was only part of journalists day-to-day jobs to Tweet and make their print or radio copies web-ready. But now, in a lot of newsrooms, that is a special job given to specific people. Most journalists and reporters still have to do everything on their own, making their work more and making no place for mistakes, as well. There is nobody to fact check or edit your Tweet before you post it because every news outlet wants to be first. Now Tweets are the competition and not the headlines of the morning newspapers like it used to be. People get notifications, messages, Tweets and more from news outlets so that they know what’s going on immediately. This also feeds the agenda of a media company. Social media is now an integral part of every newsroom and no media company or organisation can go without it. Most of the time there are even several accounts; according to Katy Katopodis, news-editor-in-chief of Eyewitness News in her book “I’m Missing News”, her reporters have their own Twitter accounts as well as an EWN account and an EWN Report account so that they can live tweet the event they are reporting on.
Technology enables us to have a faster way of spreading news, it opens channels for citizen journalism and makes reporters and journalists lifestyle a little bit easier. Sort of like that floating magic pen and notebook of the journalist in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but with great inventions come great responsibility.
The first thing one would wonder about when it comes to this technology influence on the media is will print media still exist in a few years?
According to Hennie Stander, Editor-in-Chief of the Potchefstroom Herald, print media has been changing so much since the 80’s that no one knows what could happen next when it comes to online media. The Potchefstroom Herald did a census amongst their community in 2016 and found that more people still reads the hard copy newspaper than the articles they post online. He says that “this is mostly true amongst community newspapers, but although they’ve experienced a loss of readers, it is much worst when it comes to daily newspapers”. He added that the content of community newspapers is why they will probably “live” longer, they cater for the community and people wants to know what’s going on around them in their own town. Professor Johannes D Froneman, experienced lecturer in journalism, said that maybe newspapers will be less important in the future, but they won’t be lost. There will always be people wanting to read their news from paper. He predicts that more specialised hard news copies will go online. Marguerite van Wyk, senior journalist at Sarie, agrees with professor Froneman and said that probably ten years from now hard copies will still be printed, but only a selected few for a certain market. She also added that a lot of magazines had to close in the past year, for instance, five Media24 publications. Dane Beisheim, reporter at OFM, said that he believes newspapers will still be here for a long time, although he does call himself a romantic in the interview, but definitely a romantic with a point: “In places like South Africa newspaper would surely not “die out” that quickly because we’re not as advanced as other countries when it comes to technology.”
Technology has changed so much around us in just a few years. In the last 30 years’ there arrived endless possibilities with the internet. Smart phones, apps, recorders, amazing cameras, Go Pro’s and more which makes a journo’s job easier by the day. One of these things in the make-a-journo’s-life-easier basket is artificial intelligence. And you’re probably wondering how something that brings “Skynet”, “John Connor” and “Terminator” to mind is such a great thing? Well, maybe it is or maybe it’s not. You can cast your judgement.
Click on the pic!
According to Merriam-Webster artificial intelligence (AI) is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.
Sounds familiar? Like maybe the apps on your smart phone, tablet, computer or in short – your robot? For some reason, artificial intelligence isn’t noticed by most people. Think about Siri or Nest and even OK Google. “I seriously think my new Samsung S7 is smarter than I am, look it speaks” one of my friends told me a week or so ago. Well, AI is already such a big part of smart phones that it is what makes the phone so cool. Your phone telling you the weather, sending you a notification of breaking news, being able to communicate with an encrypted service and even being told by your own phone “there is light traffic in your area” is all part of the AI experience.
See how easy it is to forget that some or most of our technology are artificial? And that peaceful and quiet takeover has already begun in the media industry. According to WIRED in 2015 Associated Press announced that the majority of its earnings report will eventually be written with AI-enabled software.
According to the Guardian in a story called “The Journalist Who Never Sleeps” the Los Angeles Times experimented with artificial intelligence in the media, dubbed robot journalism (AI), in March 2015.
At dawn on 17 March 2015, The Los Angeles Times was the first organisation to break the news; just three minutes after the city was awoken by a mild tremor. This is how the initial piece was drafted:
“A shallow magnitude 4.7 earthquake was reported Monday morning five miles [8km] from Westwood, California, according to the US Geological Survey. The temblor occurred at 6.25am Pacific time at a depth of 5.0 miles. According to the USGS, the epicentre was six miles from Beverly Hills, California, seven miles from Universal City, California, seven miles from Santa Monica, California, and 348 miles from Sacramento, California. In the past 10 days, there have been no earthquakes magnitude 3.0 and greater centred nearby. This information comes from the USGS Earthquake Notification Service and this post was created by an algorithm written by the author.”
The so-called author is on the staff of the times, living two lives by being a reporter as well as a computer programmer. That morning he was awoken with journo adrenaline and saw that the USGS servers received data from various seismographs, translated them into figures and sent them over the web to the journalist’s computer. The data was imported into software, which selected the relevant information and drafted an article in simple English. All he had to do was click “send”, but in fact, this sort of text could be published without any human intervention said the Times. Next time even if he stays in bed, Times readers will receive the news.
In the US automated writing technology was partly developed by artificial intelligence specialists at Northwestern University in Illinois. Professor Larry Birnbaum, part of the head of the Intelligent Information Laboratory, is an exemplary figure in AI, for he also teaches at the nearby Medill School of Journalism.
The Times, as well as Associated Press, stressed that their so-called robotics journalism isn’t something that’s going to replace journalists, but rather help them. If the programs can write the data-linked stories, journalists will have more time to do huge research related stories. Hennie Stander, editor-in-chief of the Potchefstroom Herald, said that he doesn’t believe that robots can write the emotional way humans do. “Robots can’t bring tears to a reader’s eyes when reading an emotional story”.
Japan recently introduced the first news anchor robot – “A robot that can read the news without stumbling once.” Although that sounds unsettling, all you news anchors out there pretty much thought that you’ll be fine; no Robocop can do your job. Just think, a robot that looks and sounds like Riaan Cruywagen?
With artificial intelligence and amazing technology another small piece of AI climbed into our lives. Social media, and with social media along came citizen journalism.
Most of the experts interviewed agreed that it can be a good as well as a bad thing. The problem a lot of journalists have with citizen journalism and Professor Froneman as well as Shaun Frazao, researcher, says that there’s a reason a journalist have to be schooled in the arts of journalism and ethics. So-called citizen journalists can provoke scandals or pass on lies, like the “Bald Bieber for Cancer” story where a lot of his fans though singer Justin Bieber had been diagnosed with cancer and shaved their heads. Only to find out it is untrue. Dane Beisheim, OFM reporter, says that social media can help a lot when dealing with communication channels. According to Yusuf Abramjee, people they know the power of social media: “Twitter, for example, has become the first source of news to many. It is powerful and it has an impact and millions of followers”. He added that he is very active on social media and he sees the impact daily in what he does. News spreads like wild fire. If you want to see the apps every journo needs on call, please click here, to read a former article.
But as we’ve learned social media and citizen journalists can be great tip-offs for news stories, to be checked and researched by journalists according to Beeld journalist, Susan Cilliers.
“As journalists, we don’t know everything. We have to accept that other people can be our eyes and ears.” – Paul Lewis, Journalist
Lewis states that the public can not only be consuming news, but also co-producing news. It can also be seen as an empowering process, where ordinary people are made journalists through their mobile devices. Think about how much mobile footage we’ve seen on news channels, websites or social media. Footage filmed by ordinary people.
On the Expresso show (2015) the presenters talked about citizen journalism and social media vs traditional journalism. But traditional journalists sort of rely on citizen journalists, because they tell their stories. But there are pros and cons, so fact checking and research are very important.
“The story posted by a citizen on Twitter will be much more reliable if they read it in traditional news sources.” – Tim Polo, journalist (2015)
According to Polo (2015) , social media makes it much easier for journalists to get eye witnesses. He says that anyone sending out one tweet can tell a story. He added that when a blue checkmark, the Twitter “this is accurate” blue check, made no one question him about his social media data; he realised that people trust accredited and accurate sources.
Media companies are losing a lot of money. Citizen journalists make the news closer and faster. The famous journalist Roby Orchard said, “being first has become much more important than being right”.
According to Orchard in 2011 Amy Winehouse died in London, within an hour after her death 10% of Tweets Internationally was about Amy Winehouse. Before any news organisation could report on it, it was already taken over by the public.
It is a problem for journalists because journalists were the head of news information for centuries. Now, they have to keep up with the public. People didn’t stop reading the news, but they stopped paying for it.
Here is a list of pro’s and cons when it comes to Citizen Journalism, made possible by blogs and social media.
In an interview with Iske de Lange, creator, CEO and editor of YAAAS Teenage Magazine she talks about the above topics specifically focussing on online media.
In the end, most experts think that a journo’s job will never be done.
“We will always need journalists. They are key and they are required. Computers will not replace the human element” – Yusuf Abramjee
It all comes back to technology, robots will probably not take over everyone’s job in the immediate future, citizen journalism is here to help and let’s just hope that ‘ol Swatch doesn’t dive into a newsroom saying “I’ll be back”.