In this report, the author, University Lecturer, PhD Lauri Haapanen, introduces the present state of affairs in news automation and discusses the ethical considerations it raises in the work of media councils. Haapanen explains that automated generation of news text is still mainly experimental in nature but reminds us that we need to keep our eyes open to technical progress. Referring to Amara’s Law, he considers it applicable that “the effect of technological progress is often overestimated in the short run and underestimated in the long run”. Haapanen concludes by arguing that although there doesn't seem to be an urgent need for self-regulatory guidance on news automation, if it is not the media councils that take the lead on this, it is going to be someone else. And whoever it is – whether national legislators, the EU, or platform companies – they might jeopardize the freedom of the press. This means that external control and guidance might force journalistic media to make decisions about content and publishing on non-journalistic grounds.
As part of the international workshop NT&T organised in September 2018, we have organised a virtual preconference, making use of the tried and tested Pecha Kucha format. A Pecha Kucha is a presentation consisting of twenty slides that are each discussed for twenty seconds. An efficient – and sometimes ruthless – way of getting your ideas out in just under seven minutes! These preconference presentations tap into the different research projects that are being done within NT&T, and represent the diverse field that news production research is.
Interview as a one-size-fits-all method
As applied researchers, we are interested in what people do in their everyday lives. Often this inquiry is conducted by using simplistic interview-based methods, such as semi-structured interviews. However, by presenting plain questions about processes that have become routine and take place daily, but not always in just the same way, it is as if the researcher were “outsourcing” the task of generalisation to the informant, who then does it without following any consistent methodological procedure. Therefore the point of this presentation is, first, to challenge the supremacy of simplistic interview methods in research. Then, it suggests some more sophisticated ways of using research interviews to produce reliable scientific knowledge.
Foundations of trust - How journalists rationalize their source choices
The sourcing is a crucial part of the journalistic process - but why do journalists choose to use a particular source? I studied the explicit rationales Finnish online journalists gave for their source choices, ending up with five distinct "discourses of trust". Interestingly, not all sources are used because they are trusted, but rather because of the journalists' practical or even downright cynical considerations.
Bilingual Practices in a Community of Francophone Journalists in Canada
This presentation focuses on the strategies that reporters develop as a “community of practice” (Wenger 1998) to deal with challenges of bilingualism and translation. To discover these strategies, I carried out fieldwork in a community of journalistic practice in the National Capital Region (Ottawa-Gatineau) in Canada: the public service broadcaster (Radio-Canada) that publish multimodal content in French on various platforms (including a website and social media). I conducted semi-structured interviews, sessions of non-participant observation, and gathered documents in the field. Journalists mitigate risks by collaborations within the community of practice and the constellation of practices. In a context of subtractive bilingualism, the interviewees align with the mandate of Radio-Canada to maintain a high quality of French.
Online headline testing at a Belgian broadsheet
This pecha-kucha discusses the changing role of the sub-editor in news production as the digital presence of newspapers increases. Sub-editors have always had a significant role in finalizing core messages of news stories and framing them, for instance through writing headlines. This role has become more prominent in online news: sub-editors (and other online news workers) now systematically ‘test’ various versions of a headline before selecting a ‘winner’ to appear on the broadsheet’s website, social media and newsletter. Drawing on fieldwork data collected by Astrid Vandendaele, we analyze this process focussing on the continuous back and forth between the online newsmakers’ ‘journalistic gut feeling’, their awareness of their broadsheet’s brand, and the need to gain ‘clicks’.
Visual Sound Bites: How Quotes Make News Shareable on Social Media
This pecha kucha presentation deals with quote cards on social media. In which way quotes are used to make news stories shareable on social media platforms? Using data from a pilot study on public service news, I explore and visualize quotation practices in the context of sharing digital news on Facebook . I argue that quoting practices, in this case, can be understood as a multimodal recontextualization that is multi-functional: visual sound bite are used to add credibility, attract audiences and enhances the overall shareability of the news items. This visual optimization of shareability and orientation towards establishing topical areas for follow-up discussions through visual sound bites raises further questions on public media and public discourse.