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“Automation will save journalism” : news automation from the service providers’ point of view

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Title: “Automation will save journalism” : news automation from the service providers’ point of view
Author(s): Kjellman, Martin
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Degree program: Master's Programme in Social Sciences (in Swedish)
Specialisation: Journalistik och kommunikation
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2021
This thesis examines how representatives of service providers for news automation perceive a) journalists and news organisations and b) the service providers’ relationship to these. By introducing new technology (natural language generation, i.e. the transformation of data into everyday language) that influences both the production and business models of news media, news automation represents a type of media innovation. The service providers represent actors peripheral to journalism. The theoretical framework takes hybrid media logics as its starting point, meaning that the power dynamics of news production are thought to be influenced by the field-specific logics of the actors involved. The hybridity metaphor is deepened by using a typology for journalistic strangers that takes into account the different roles peripheral actors adopt in relation to journalists and news organisations. Journalism is understood throughout as a professional ideology encountered by service providers who work with news organisations. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with representatives from companies that create natural language generation software used to produce journalistic text based on data. Participants were asked about their experiences working with news media and the interviews (N=6) were analysed phenomenologically. The findings form three distinct but interrelated dimensions of how the service providers perceive news media and journalism: an area that sorely needs innovators (potential) but lacks resources in terms of knowledge, money and will to innovate (obstacles), but one that they can ultimately learn from and collaborate with (solutions). Their own relationship to journalism and news media is not fixed to one single role. Instead, they alternate between challenging news media (explicit interloping) and inhabiting a supportive role (implicit interloping). This thesis serves as an exploration into how service providers for news automation affect the power dynamics of news production. It does so by unveiling how journalists and news organisations are perceived, and by adding further understanding to previous research on actors peripheral to journalism. In order to further untangle how service providers for news automation shift the balance of power shaping news production, future research should attempt to unify the way traditional news media actors and service providers perceive each other and their collaborations.
Keyword(s): news automation hybridity journalistic strangers natural language processing computational journalism service providers news NLP journalismi data

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