2
0
1
9

We all grow hooves

“There’s a lesson to be learned here and it’s not about automation, but augmentation. Teaming up with AI, to become better, stronger, faster. To become a centaur.”

If you listen to talks and panels about AI at media conferences, you’re sure to meet an old acquaintance: the robot journalist. It’s the simple idea that the future of journalism is pure and efficient automation. As exciting as it might sound to some, it’s a rather bleak vision of the future, with bustling newsrooms replaced by rows and rows of branded server racks.

It’s the same story Google and IBM told after the historic showdowns between human players and computers in the games of chess and Go. Both games were often seen as the next big hurdle of artificial intelligence. It’s, unfortunately, the framing most journalists willingly accepted, because it’s a story we love to tell: Man vs. machine. Creator vs. creation.

But hidden beneath those sagas of algorithmic triumph over human intelligence, you can find a much more interesting story. During the training of AlphaGo, Google decided to pair up humans and machines and pitch those teams against each other. Both human players — now supported by an electronic partner — played much better, faster, and more precise than before. The same thing happened after Garry Kasparov lost his legendary game of chess against IBM’s Deep Blue in 1997. Kasparov subsequently invented a completely new way of playing chess, also by teaming up human players with computers. The result is called centaur chess and regarded as being faster, more precise, and more accessible to amateurs, than normal chess.

There’s a lesson to be learned here and it’s not about automation, but augmentation. Teaming up with AI, to become better, stronger, faster. To become a centaur.

So what would your centaur future look like as a journalist? Around the globe, we can already see dozens of examples. Let’s grab the low-hanging fruit: You don’t want to spend hours on end transcribing an interview? Yeah, let’s give that to a machine learning system (though you still might want to take some time to edit the final transcript). How about using satellite images to find the potentially illegal swapping of cargo between ships on the global oceans? You could spend days looking for yourself, but your machine-learning colleague is able to do that for you. Or how about finding illegal amber mines in the deep forests of Ukraine? Sure! Helping you to recognize which of the 500-plus representatives and senators is standing in front of you? We got that! Deep diving into millions of leaked documents from the Panama and Paradise Papers? Grab a coffee and let’s start digging up shell companies. Interested in knowing which topics politicians seem to care about the most? Speak no more!

This is the story I’d love to talk more about in 2019. What tools can we create to help journalists? Especially in an age where the flood of information is often overwhelming even for professionals.

Especially considering that the current incarnation of AI as machine learning has its own set of limitations, as scholars, like Gary Marcus, Zachary Lipton, Francis Chollet and others have noted in recent months. The problem is that ML-systems don’t really understand the data they’re processing. For example, a system trained on recognizing dogs won’t be able to tell you that the picture of a squirrel you fed it is not a dog. It might be certain it’s a German shepherd.

These systems are also unable to understand context and information outside of its training. They can’t reason or use abstract knowledge the way humans can. But the even bigger problem is the inability of machine learning to distinguish between correlation and causation of the patterns found in the data.

The idea of the robot journalist betrays a flawed view of the purpose of journalism. It’s the algorithmic equivalence of the “view from nowhere.” The idea that reporters have to “report the facts,” without helping readers contextualizing. The biggest flaw of the robot journalist is the idea that there’s such a thing as an objective worldview, able to be gauged through data and algorithms alone — instead of a messy and complex multi-polar world which has to be carefully explored and questioned. That’s something no machine learning system will be able to do in the near future, if ever. And of course there’s a huge difference between learning the patterns of a well-written article and actually writing one.

Don’t get me wrong — automatic text generation will have its place in the newsroom of the future, but it won’t be the single defining use of AI. We will instead see more cases of AI helping journalists, not making them redundant. So let’s stop talking about the robot journalist in 2019 and start talking about the other future for journalism, the one with four metaphorical hooves: the centaur-journalist.

Johannes Klingebiel works in the innovation team at the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Jenée Desmond-Harris   It finally sinks in that some people aren’t white

Josh Schwartz   A pullback from platforms and a focus on product

Mandy Velez   Putting the social back in social media

Tamar Charney   Seriously: What do you do for people?

Steve Grove   A reckoning for tech’s work with news

Jim Friedlich   Meet Citizen Kane 2.0

Sarah Alvarez   Simplify and redistribute

Joanne McNeil   Building a digital hospice

Mike Caulfield   Ditch the media literacy cynicism and get to work

Brian Moritz   The subscription-pocalypse is about to hit

Borja Bergareche Sainz de los Terreros   Entering a more balanced era

Jonas Kaiser   Catching up with “Neuland”

Dave Burdick   Seeing our blind spots

Axie Navas   The traffic hunt, CMS battle, and magazine identity crises loom

Whitney Phillips   Our information systems aren’t broken — they’re working as intended

Joshua Darr   The nationalization of political news will accelerate

Angèle Christin   Algorithms and the reflexive turn

Alexandra Svokos   Good luck convincing us millennials to pay

Adam Smith   Platforms will have to help rebuild trust in news

Don Day   Timewalls and other reader revenue experiments

Frank Mungeam   Tonight at 11: News, sports, and climate change

Hearken   Pivot to people

Rachel Glickhouse   Newsrooms will prioritize audience needs

Reyhan Harmanci   Selling more stories to Hollywood

Bill Grueskin   Toward a symphony model for local news

Kate Myers   Journalism continues to be bad for democracy

Francesco Zaffarano   Towards a rethinking of journalism on social media

Jared Newman   AI-generated fakes launch a software arms race

Patrick Butler   Measuring impact will increase audience trust

Elizabeth Dunbar   Local reporters reflect on what’s not important

Rick Berke   The year of loyalty

james Wahutu   Think 2018 was bad? Wait until you see 2019

Ole Reißmann   The rise of vertical storytelling

Laura E. Davis   More access, but not that kind

Ruth Palmer and Benjamin Toff   From news fatigue to news avoidance

Craig Newmark   The end of “loudspeakers for liars”

Cătălina Albeanu   Being responsible for what we don’t know

Mike Isaac   The old exit doors for digital media companies are closing

Mariana Moura Santos   From pageviews to impact

Greg Emerson   Power to the user

Rubina Madan Fillion   Fighting the reality of deepfakes

Joe Amditis   Give the audience a seat at the table

A.J. Bauer   The coming splintering of conservative media

Candis Callison   Learn from Indigenous journalists on covering climate change

Johannes Klingebiel   We all grow hooves

Lauren Katz   Community becomes a core newsroom value

Marie Shanahan   Newsrooms take the comments sections back from platforms

Hossein Derakhshan   The news is dying, but journalism will not — and should not

Joel Konopo   Influencers become the new liberated power in Africa

Rishad Patel   A design system for responsible publishing

Mandy Jenkins   Fight the urge to run away from social media

Kristen Muller   Local news fails — in a good way

Andrea Faye Hart   Doing less harm, not just more good

Gideon Lichfield   Goodbye attention economy, we’ll miss you

Gabriel Snyder   Journalism doesn’t fit well in a funnel

Almar Latour   Reported facts, weaponized in service of action

Meredith Artley   Huge demand for…anything but politics

Matthew Pressman   The battle over objectivity intensifies

Alexandra Borchardt   Newsrooms need to build trust with their journalists, not just the audience

Kevin Douglas Grant   A year to embrace journalism as public service

Callie Schweitzer   The rise of the conveners

Eric Nuzum   The year of the DIY podcast network

Andrew Ramsammy   The great re-pivot to audio

Nico Gendron   Reaching Generation Z beyond the coasts

Heba Aly   The rise of international nonprofit news

Jesse Holcomb   We’ll get better at making the case for local journalism

Kjerstin Thorson   Time to get mad about information inequality (again)

Ariel Zirulnick   Participation gets professional

Efrat Nechushtai   Journalism wants to be your friend, not your teacher

John Biewen   Podcasts keep getting better

Eric Ulken   The year you actually start to like your CMS

Ben Smith   The pendulum starts to swing back

Kelsey Proud   Journalism becomes the escape

Kyra Darnton   A shift to depth in video

Logan Molyneux   Seeing social media for what it is

Elva Ramirez   News — but make it cinematic

Darryl Holliday   Let’s talk about power (yours)

Thomas Hanitzsch   The rise of tribal journalism

Bill Adair   Another year fighting Trump’s falsehoods

Matt Waite   “I went to Node.js because I wished to live deliberately”

Nikki Usher   Three ways national media will further undermine trust

Errin Haines Whack   Say it with me: Racism

Glyn Mottershead and Martin Chorley   When a tech company pulls the plug on your story

Carolina Guerrero   Spanish-language audio blows up

Heather Bryant   We are responsible for how we use our power

Libby Bawcombe   Haikus of the news

Ben Werdmuller   The platform tide is turning

Cherian George   Fake news wins in Asia

Peter Bale   Venture capital runs out of patience

Carrie Brown-Smith   Advocating a healthy civic life is no journalistic crime

Tushar Banerjee   Interactive ads will be the new face of display advertising

Amy Schmitz Weiss   Local news isn’t where you thought it was

Frank Chimero   Leave the phone at home and put news on your wrist

Stephanie Edgerly   It’s time to understand the un-audience

Sue Cross   Return of the water cooler

Becca Aaronson   From bridge roles to product thinkers

Simon Rogers   Data journalism becomes a global field

Elite Truong   What do we owe the next generation?

Renée Kaplan   Our future could lie within our own organizations

Chase Davis   We can acknowledge what we don’t know

Jake Shapiro   Podcasting is media’s slow food movement

Tshepo Tshabalala   Ahead of African elections, unlock partnerships with fact-checkers

Adam B. Ellick   Video forensic reporting goes mainstream — and local

Salem Solomon   Correcting our corrections

An Xiao Mina   The death of consensus, not the death of truth

Linda Solomon Wood   The year of the climate reporter

Jesse Brown   Canada’s subsidy for news backfires

Mario García   The rise of content “pilots”

Julia Rubin   Meeting people where they are

Nathalie Malinarich   Video — yes, video

Jonathan Stray   More algorithmic accountability reporting, and a lot of it will be meh

Cory Bergman   Journalism as a technology service

Francesco Marconi   The year of iterative journalism

Matt Skibinski   Quality and reliability are the new currencies for publishers

Andrew Donohue   Voting rights becomes the new climate change

LaToya Drake   Listen up: New stories, new storytellers

Carl Bialik   Fatigued news consumers will pay more for less news

Zizi Papacharissi   Old interface, say hello to the new interface

Winny de Jong   Data journalism goes undercover

Zainab Khan   Publishers whose products can stand up to social media giants will win

Shalabh Upadhyay   A culture clash on India’s growing Internet

Mat Yurow   Content competition from the tech companies

Kawandeep Virdee   Media wants to take care of you

Raney Aronson-Rath   We learn “digital” doesn’t have to mean “short”

Masuma Ahuja   Make foreign coverage less foreign

Sarah Stonbely   Mapping the local news ecosystem — with scale but detail

Ståle Grut   A new dawn for 3D tech in journalism

Moreno Cruz Osório   Damaged credibility and a new threat in Brazil

Ernie Smith   The year we step back from the platform

Angilee Shah   The year news orgs say “yes” to real leaders

Stefanie Murray   Local news wakes up and starts collaborating

Jeremy Gilbert   AI finally becomes helpful

Rachel Davis Mersey   Local news goes minimalist

Michael Grant   More newsrooms experiment their way to success

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   A long, slow slog, with no one coming to the rescue

Steve Henn   Smart speakers get smarter

Kainaz Amaria   We consider who’s behind the camera

Annie Rudd   A more intimate aesthetic of politics — on Insta

Adam Thomas   In Europe, foundations invest in news

Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau   A more sincere definition of “community”

John Garrett   You can’t raise prices forever

Charo Henríquez   Pivot to journalism

Jack Riley   Facebook refugees, from ad revenue to news habits

Taylor Lorenz   Personal branding is more powerful than ever

Talia Stroud   Engaging people across lines of difference

Seth C. Lewis   The gap between journalism and research is too wide

Heather Chaplin   Agree we’re partisan — for the democratic system

Cindy Royal   For journalism curriculum to change, its faculty needs disruption

Robin Kwong   Tech shouldn’t be the only field pollinating “news nerds”

Knight Foundation   A year of local collaboration

Seema Yasmin   We will create our own spaces

Justin Kosslyn   Text hits a tipping point

Soo Oh   Just showing our work isn’t enough

Julie Posetti   The year of the fight back

Sarah Marshall   A return to destination journalism

Steve Myers   From trying to cover it all to covering what matters

Shannon McGregor   More bogus embedded tweets in our stories

Peter Cunliffe-Jones   The focus of misinformation debates shifts south

Jean Friedman Rudovsky   Cross-newsroom collaborations strengthen communities

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams   Podcasting battles East Coast bias

Cristi Hegranes   A year to invest in the security of local journalists

Sue Robinson   Reporters go on the offensive

John Saroff   The pivot to reader revenue’s unintended consequences

Alberto Cairo   A year of uncertainty and confidence

Jennifer Dargan   You don’t build diversity through one-off training sessions

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Readers are only getting started

Geetika Rudra   The year of actionable (local) journalism

Emma Carew Grovum   The year of the loyal reader

Umbreen Bhatti   The story doesn’t end for the people we quote

Claire Wardle   Forget deepfakes: Misinformation is showing up in our most personal online spaces

Zuzanna Ziomecka   News leadership gets an overdue upgrade

Renan Borelli   Developing loyalty means developing your talent

Nicholas Jackson   More transparency around newsroom decisions

Christa Scharfenberg and Vickie Baranetsky   The year of the lawsuit

Michael Rain   The year of the culturally relevant curator

Tim Carmody   Unlocking the commons

P. Kim Bui   The misfits become the bosses

Rebecca Searles   From silos to Swiss Army knife teams

Elizabeth Jensen   Going where the Acela can’t take you

Colleen Shalby   Representation becomes more than a talking point

Millie Tran   There is no magic — you’ve got this

Mike Rispoli and Craig Aaron   Government funds local news — and that’s a good thing

Rebecca Lee Sanchez   We are all actors in the running rampant of political theater

Monique Judge   Committing to the truth, calling out lies

Elisabeth Goodridge   Yes, they signed up — but our job’s not over

Dheerja Kaur   A focus on problems, not platforms

Jonathan Gill   Publishers build a common tech platform together

Pablo Boczkowski   Reimagining the media for post-institutional times

Victor Pickard   We will finally confront systemic market failure

Betsy O'Donovan and Melody Kramer   The most beautiful sentence in 2019 is “No.”

Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie   The year product leads media

Simon Galperin   After capitalism’s fire, journalism’s secondary succession

Jeff Chin   We detox from Chartbeat

M. Scott Havens   Time to swing for the fences

Matt Karolian   Publishers come to terms with being Facebook’s enablers

Alyssa Zeisler   We expand what (and how and who) we serve

Rodney Gibbs   A bright — and young — year for audio

Manoush Zomorodi   Tech will do for information overload what it did for mindfulness

Tyler Fisher   This is journalism’s do-or-die moment

Robert Hernandez   Racists and sexists get replaced

Amy King   We should listen to the kids (especially on Instagram)

Pia Frey   You can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis

Dan Shanoff   Bet on sports gambling

Nisha Chittal   The homepage makes a comeback

Celeste LeCompte   Local news needs local conversation to survive