The year of augmented writing

“The combination of AI and journalism will contribute to a more informed and efficient society by enabling journalists to conduct deep analysis, uncover corruption, and hold people and institutions accountable.”

With the extraordinary change that technology has brought to the news and information landscape, the future of news depends on journalists working alongside smart machines. The first wave of this symbiosis was news automation, where artificial intelligence systems generate written stories and alerts directly from data. The goal is not to displace journalists from their jobs — it’s about freeing up their time from labor-intensive tasks so they can do higher-order journalism.

francesco-marconiFollowing the direction set in motion by automation, the next evolution will be about leveraging smart tools that can help journalists augment their own writing. This means AI-powered interfaces capable of providing context to topics in real time and even optimizing a news report based on its dateline and subject matter.

In 2017, AI will help journalists do more investigative work by analyzing massive sets of data and pointing to relationships not easily visible to even the most experienced reporter. The combination of AI and journalism will contribute to a more informed and efficient society by enabling journalists to conduct deep analysis, uncover corruption, and hold people and institutions accountable. This evolution in journalism comes at a time when fake news seems to cast a shadow over trust in our industry.

These new tools will eventually become prevalent in most newsrooms across the world. However, we should not expect mass adoption without a fight.

Looking at the evolution of successful writing technologies from the past, we can see a very specific cycle emerge, and how long it takes to develop. The first phase is uncertainty; when a new writing technology begins to enter mainstream society, there’s hesitancy to adopt it.

In fact, when the first writing technology was introduced — the act of writing itself on paper — Greek philosopher Socrates argued that “the written word is the enemy of memory.” Centuries later, with the introduction of the printing press, Johannes Trithemius, a prolific German cryptographer, worried that the new technology would make monks responsible for transcribing religious books lazy.

Later on, the world witnessed similar resistance to innovation with the introduction of the typewriter and even the word processor in the computers we use today. The transition to augmented writing, where smart machines help journalists create better content, will likely encounter the same barriers to innovation.

Despite promising advances in artificial intelligence, we still know very little about the ethical implications of news augmented by machine learning. While it is clear the integration of machine learning, cognitive analysis and big data will revolutionize multiple aspects of the world, careful consideration is required when extrapolating its benefits to journalism.

As A.I. and cognitive computing quickly evolve, it will be crucial in 2017 for the industry to consider the tradeoffs that will come from increased efficiency and productivity.

Francesco Marconi is manager of strategy and development at the Associated Press.

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Richard J. Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Trushar Barot   API or die

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Errin Haines   Chaos or community?

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

David Weigel   A test for online speech

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users