World Economy

World Bracing for Next Wave of Technology

Amy Webb says artificial intelligence is posing “an existential threat to the future of journalism”
A man tries out virtual reality goggles with an EHang Ghost Drone 2.0, which has 4K video, Avatar tilt control and VR goggles.
A man tries out virtual reality goggles with an EHang Ghost Drone 2.0, which has 4K video, Avatar tilt control and VR goggles.

If you think technology has shaken up the news media—just wait, you haven’t seen anything yet. The next wave of disruption is likely to be even more profound, according to a study presented Saturday to the Online News Association annual meeting in Washington.

News organizations which have struggled in the past two decades as readers moved online and to mobile devices will soon need to adapt to artificial intelligence, augmented reality and automated journalism and find ways to connect beyond the smartphone, the report said, AFP reported.

 “Voice interface” will be one of the big challenges for media organizations, said the report by Amy Webb, a New York University Stern School of Business faculty member and Founder of the Future Today Institute.

The institute estimates that 50% of interactions that consumers have with computers will be using their voices by 2023. “Once we are speaking to our machines about the news, what does the business model for journalism look like?” the report said. “News organizations are ceding this future ecosystem to outside corporations. They will lose the ability to provide anything but content.”

Webb writes that most news organizations have done little experimentation with chat apps and voice skills on Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, the likes of which may be key parts of the future news ecosystem.

AI a Threat?

Because of this, she argues that artificial intelligence or AI is posing “an existential threat to the future of journalism. Journalism itself is not actively participating in building the AI ecosystem,” she wrote.

One big problem facing media organizations is that new technologies impacting the future of news such as AI are out of their control, and instead is in the hands of tech firms like Google, Amazon, Tencent, Baidu, IBM, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, according to Webb.

“News organizations are customers, not significant contributors,” the report said. “We recommend cross-industry collaboration and experimentation on a grand scale, and we encourage leaders within journalism to organize quickly.”

Drones, Virtual Reality

The study identified 75 technology trends likely to have an impact on journalism in the coming years, including drones, wearables, blockchain, 360-degree video, virtual reality and real-time fact-checking.

Webb’s study said some changes in technology will start having an impact on the media in the very near future, within 24 to 36 months. “In 2018, a critical mass of emerging technologies will converge, finding advanced uses beyond initial testing and applied research,” the report said.

Some of these new technologies—the ability to interpret visual data, develop algorithms to write or interpret news, and collect and analyze increasing amounts of data—will allow journalists “to do richer, deeper reporting, fact checking and editing,” the report said.

These technologies “will give journalists superpowers, if they have the training to use these emerging systems and tools,” Webb writes.

Toxic Armories

"Toxic Armories", a groundbreaking project by The Oregonian/OregonLive, won the Online News Association's Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award. The awards were announced Saturday evening in Washington, D.C.

Editor Mark Katches called the award "huge validation of our digital first approach to news and producing content in a robust multimedia way."

The newsroom had three Online Journalism Award finalists this year—more than any other regional metro daily news organization in the country. The annual contest recognizes the nation's best digital journalism. The awards are administered by the Online News Association, a 3,600-member industry group made of digital journalists.

"Toxic Armories" was a finalist in two categories—public service and innovative investigative journalism. The 2016 series won in investigative for medium-sized newsrooms.

The series was written and reported by Rob Davis but included contributions from about two dozen newsroom staff. The 18-month investigation found hundreds of National Guard armories from Oregon to Maine had been contaminated with lead dust. People had fallen ill. Children had been exposed.

Indoor gun ranges proved to be the culprit. Every time someone fired a gun, particles spewed from lead bullets onto the range floor. Ventilation systems were supposed to contain the neurotoxin. High-powered vacuums should have captured any lingering dust. Yet Davis found systems were compromised or inadequate, and cleaning efforts were bungled.


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