AI: Threat to journalists and a free press? Not in Sweden.

By Michael Martinez
Published 06/13/2019
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It wasn’t too long ago that journalists looked upon artificial intelligence and robots with disdain, warning that AI is hardly the bedrock of a free press and disparaging the story-creation technology as “robo-journalism.”

But Swedish journalists have seemingly embraced the benefits of AI. The tech can be used to do the monotonous writing assignments — such as summarizing sports scores and writing about corporate financial reports — and thus can free up writers and editors to do more ambitious, deeper work, according to a recent report by the International News Media Association.

On the INMA website, CEO Soren Karlsson of United Robots in Malmo, Sweden, writes that robot journalism doesn’t threaten newsroom jobs, according to several Swedish journalists whom Karlsson quoted. His firm has been automating journalism in Sweden since 2015.

“We currently don’t have the resources to pay journalists to cover division five football matches or traffic news from villages and towns all around the county — but that is content robots can deliver,” said Swedish journalists Anna Sundelin and Mattias Åkerlund at VK’s Affärsliv 24.

More than ever, news media need new models to survive. AI could be an answer.

Chart of how Sweden is more positive about robots and artificial intelligence than are Americans.
“The attitude to robots and artificial intelligence among the public is more positive in Sweden than e.g. in the United States. This may be one reason Swedish media houses use news robots more extensively than the publishing industry in most other countries,” the International News Media Association says. Source for illustration: Hanna Tuulonen, University of Gothenburg; Robin Govik, MittMedia, Sweden.