Can Algorithms Replace Certain Journalistic Functions?

Watchdogging or investigative reporting? Leave some of the work to the algorithms!

Astrid Gynnild/ViSmedia

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At the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy on 5-9 April ViSmedia’s Nick Diakopoulos was invited to be on a panel as well as teach a solo session on investigation of algorithms in use in the government. The participants in the interactive session collaboratively explored the use of algorithms at various levels of government by running targeted search queries on government sites. The leads were then fleshed out and the session looked at how one can use the algorithms and why it may matter to the public.

In the panel discussions Diakopoulos talked about how to approach algorithmic assistance. How can software assist reporting, and how can we get this novice started?

– As we march forward in time and more domains are being datafied and quantified, I think we will see the reach and find automated journalism move into those areas, Diakopoulos in the discussion.

Diakoloulos told the audience about some work and investigating he did the in days and weeks before the US election to see which role the algorithms played in terms of what type of news people were reading about the presidential candidates. A closer look at Google revealed that the types of news articles surfacing on the top of the search result page were CNN and New York Times articles.

Why is that? Are they better at playing the search engine game than other news stations? Listen to what Diakopoulos has to say in this video (23 minutes in):

Collaborating with algorithms