On Campus: The Weigh-In

Faculty experts shed light on news that makes us go, “wha?”


The LA Times famously used a robot journalist (i.e., software) a year ago to write a breaking-news earthquake story. Other outlets, including The Associated Press, have also used the new technology, leaving journalists fretting about losing their jobs to machines. Is the end nigh?

doomsday clock


Jody Kleinberg Biehl, director of UB’s journalism certificate program

Worrying about robotic journalism is a waste of energy; we journalists should cheer its arrival. Robot journalists can do wonderful work—much of which humans have always loathed doing, including writing formulaic crime briefs and generating financial reports. This work is tedious and becoming increasingly necessary given the demand for 24-hour news. What the “robots” can’t do is original reporting or thinking. They can’t write with nuance or context. They can’t recognize a good quote, sense when someone is lying or figure out what questions to ask next. The AP may now be able to produce 3,000 rather than 300 reports every quarter year. But without human time, talent and thought, none of those stories will resonate or matter.