This article was first seen on www.mediaupdate.co.za and contributed by Thomson Reuters - click here for the original

The marriage between newsrooms, journalists and technology is only getting stronger. The only question is: Where should the balance lie in terms of producing stories that are faster, better and more in depth?

How technology helps newsrooms and journalists maximise their skills. media update’s Adam Wakefield spoke to Reginald Chua, chief operating officer and executive editor at Thomson Reuters, about how the marriage of artificial intelligence and human journalism can benefit both audiences and news providers. 

You talk about building a 'cybernetics newsroom' at Reuters, which combines the best of human and machine capability. Could you please expand on this?

Machines are good at some things, and not so good at others – as are people. Computers are great at tirelessly ploughing through reams of data and finding patterns and outliers; humans bring judgment, context and the ability to ask the right questions to the table. 

Marrying the strengths of both gets us better journalism, faster – and makes more sense than trying to get machines to becoming poor copies of humans. 

It’s a strategy that plays to many of Reuters’ strengths, as well. We have a great newsroom of smart, dedicated journalists with deep knowledge of their beats.

We also have access to troves of financial and other data that can shed light on events, and we have smart technology teams that can build and manage systems that make the task of finding data-driven insights as seamless as possible.

Reuters' journalist played a key role in programming the company's in-house tool, called Lynx Insight. How important is it for journalists to have coding skills, if they are to truly thrive in future newsrooms?

The key ingredient Reuters' journalists brought to the process was the knowledge and experience to ask the right questions. By identifying the main problems, they helped steer the data analytics team to develop the most effective algorithms to find those patterns.

Some journalists helped write code, but most helped the project by contributing specialist knowledge. It isn’t critical, in the long-term, for all journalists to have coding skills.

However, it is important that they understand what machines can do, and how to work with technology teams to harness those capabilities.

There's a skill that’s been described as 'computational thinking', which is not the actual doing, but the understanding of what’s possible.

As for data analysis: Again, not all journalists will need to analyse data themselves, but they do need to know how it can help improve and bolster their journalism.

How has Reuters re-orientated itself so it can continue to be a news leading provider, but also stay in step with what is happening technologically?

Reuters has a long tradition of innovation, dating back to its founding when it used the 'new technology' of carrier pigeons to carry news. This was done by building telegraph networks and being at the forefront of electronic trading. 

Today, being a provider of news to two key sectors – financial professionals and news organisations – that need to stay ahead of new trends, we really don’t have any option but to stay nimble, experiment with new ideas, pursue what works and constantly look over the horison. 

It’s a never-ending task, but we’re fortunate to have strong tech teams, smart journalists and supportive management.

How do you ensure journalists don’t become over-reliant on machines doing research work for them?

Newsrooms are already heavily reliant on technology for a wide range of tasks, and sometimes those tools fail. It’s critical for journalists to have a strong understanding of the broad workings of those tools and have backup plans in place for those inevitable moments when something goes wrong.

It’s important, too, that they perform reality checks on the outputs of the machines to ensure there aren’t glitches in the system.

Over time, will they come to rely a lot on machines? Perhaps, in the same way, that we’ve all become very reliant on digital maps and navigation aids. But it’s also important to maintain the core skills to do that work manually.

This article was first seen on www.mediaupdate.co.za and contributed by Thomson Reuters

The trade-off for that reliance can be much better, deeper and richer journalism – just as digital maps can take us to our destinations faster and more effectively.

For more information, visit www.thomsonreuters.com.

Monday, 14 May 2018



Found in: Journo News, International