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Automation will boost mass media to a whole new level, vows TASS chief

May 24, 15:24 UTC+3 ST. PETERSBURG

SPIEF is being held in St. Petersburg on May 24-26

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© Mikhail Japaridze/TASS

ST. PETERSBURG, May 24. /TASS/. TASS Director-General Sergey Mikhailov encouraged audiences not to fear computerized production of standard content. He was speaking at a summit of world news agencies on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Thursday.

"Eventually, computers will be capable of automating the processing and production of 80% of standard mass media content, then journalists will have more time to spend on exclusives, working with sources and pursuing off-beat subjects and events. Ultimately, this will bolster the quality of journalism and not lead to a decline in its quality, contrary to widespread fears," he clarified. "And of course, the final decision whether to publish any content whatsoever will be left up to real people. I believe there is no place for any fears here."

Mikhailov believes that automated news production, albeit to a limited extent, is not a remote possibility, but something in the foreseeable future.

"One should not think that humanoid robots will take over newsrooms to phase out editors and reporters. Everything will be much simpler," he stressed. "First, the production of typical content will begin to be adjusted on the basis of certain algorithms. This may apply to such recurrent items as newscasts, profit and loss accounts, sports competitions and statistical surveys. That’s not artificial intellect and automation yet."

All these technologies, Mikhailov said, have begun to be used at TASS to a certain extent already.

"This is just the base of the pyramid all of us will have to climb in the near future," he emphasized.

About the role of automation in handling more complex content, Mikhailov said that for the time being mass media in Russia and around the globe were not quite successful in fully automating news writing, so the prioritization of important and emotional aspects in the media space remained journalists’ prerogative.

"We are closely studying these processes at TASS and we are prepared to see this as the next phase of our technological development," he said.

Mikhailov did not rule out that the process of generating photo captions would be automated much faster than text news writing.

News agencies’ summit at SPIEF

A TASS-sponsored summit of news agencies was held on SPIEF’s sidelines on Thursday.

It brought together the chiefs of nearly 30 leading news services from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Britain, Vietnam, Germany, Egypt, Iran, Spain, Italy, the United States and Japan.

TASS First Deputy Director-General Mikhail Gusman and Press Association Group’s Chief Executive Clive Marshall moderated the discussion.

SPIEF is being held in St. Petersburg on May 24-26 under the motto Creating an Economy of Trust. TASS is the forum’s information partner and official photo host, as well as the operator of the SPIEF zone of presentations with support from the EY consultancy and Russia’s Foreign Investment Advisory Council (FIAC).

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