Conference PaperPDF Available

Designing for Automated Journalism in the Netherlands: First Steps and No Way Back

Authors:

Abstract

We propose our user-centred design method for automated journalistic tools with the goal of supporting journalists' efficiency, allowing for more time to be allocated to investigative and reflective tasks that lead towards in-depth journalism. Our method allows for a journalist-focused, positive perspective on algorithmic news: instead of viewing journalism as a practice in need of replacing, we provide a holistic way to look at journalistic ways of working where there are many promising opportunities for innovation using natural language generation and other artificially intelligent technologies.
Designing for Automated
Journalism in the Netherlands:
First Steps and No Way Back
Abstract
We propose our user-centred design method for
automated journalistic tools with the goal of supporting
journalists’ efficiency, allowing for more time to be
allocated to investigative and reflective tasks that lead
towards in-depth journalism. Our method allows for a
journalist-focused, positive perspective on algorithmic
news: instead of viewing journalism as a practice in
need of replacing, we provide a holistic way to look at
journalistic ways of working where there are many
promising opportunities for innovation using natural
language generation and other artificially intelligent
technologies.
Author Keywords
Automated news, robot journalism, user-centred
design, design methods, natural language generation,
summary technology, conversational interfaces, Dutch
language.
Introduction
News keeps us informed about the world we live in. It
adds to our quality of living, by putting in the front of
our minds what is important. Being informed spurs us
into action by triggering awareness, critical thinking
and asking the right questions (De Botton, 2014).
To copy, republish, post on servers or redistribute to lists, requires prior
specific permission and/or a fee.
Copyright is held by the author(s).
Extended abstract of full paper, presented in: Thurman, N., Lewis, S. C.,
Kunert, J. (Eds.) Algorithms, Automation, and News: An International
Conference, May 22-23, 2018, Munich, Germany
ACM copyright: ACM holds the copyright on the work. This is the
historical approach.
License: The author(s) retain copyright, but ACM receives an
exclusive publication license.
Open Access: The author(s) wish to pay for the work to be open
access. The additional fee must be paid to ACM.
Hanna Zoon
Fontys FutureMediaLab
Rachelsmolen 1
Eindhoven, the Netherlands
h.zoon@fontys.nl
info@hannazoon.com
Jeske van Dongen
Fontys FutureMediaLab
Rachelsmolen 1
Eindhoven, the Netherlands
j.vandongen@fontys.nl
Jorge Alves Lino
Lector, Fontys FutureMediaLab
Rachelsmolen 1
Eindhoven, the Netherlands
j.alveslino@fontys.nl
Extended Abstract
However, traditional news media have entered difficult
times (Linden, 2017), driven by lower revenues,
limiting the resources that allow for the making of high-
quality news (Landman, Kik, Hermans & Hietbrink,
2015). While substantial developments have been
made in the field of automated news in the English
language (Dörr, 2016), in the context of Dutch
language such developments are relatively limited
(Kasem, Waes, Wannet, 2015), perhaps due to the
small language area (Boom, 2016).
At the Fontys FutureMediaLab we are investigating
Automated Journalism with a multidisciplinary team of
researchers and students. This research is done in close
collaboration with Dutch news cooperation De
Persgroep. In this paper, we propose our user-centred
design method for automated journalistic tools such as
summary, search, conversational interfaces or Natural
Language Generation, with the goal of support
journalists’ efficiency, allowing for saved time to be
allocated to investigative and reflective tasks that lead
towards in-depth journalism.
In this paper, we describe our design method,
consisting of adaptations of several methods commonly
used in user-centred design processes for interactive
product development, but until now seldom applied to
the context of automating journalists’ work practice.
User-centred design methods involve end-users, in this
case journalists, from the start and during the entire
design process, causing better acceptance and a more
positive user experience of the end product (Zoon,
Cremers & Eggen, 2014).
Method
A summary of our user-centred method for designing
for Automated Journalism, including references to the
original methods:
1. Immersion in context (Holtzblatt & Beyer,
2014): Explore journalists’ work, analyse and
observe workflows and tasks, interview
journalists
2. Analyse and categorise observations and
interviews through Affinity Mapping (Holtzblatt
& Beyer, 2014)
3. Identify repetitive, rule-bound tasks (Frey &
Osborne, 2017)
4. Generate ideas to improve and automate these
tasks, taking into account new and innovative
technologies (Salovaara & Mannonen,2005)
5. Prototype the most promising ideas (Buchenau
& Suri, 2000)
6. Evaluate with journalists, determining
technology acceptance, practical use and
effects, based on the method ‘Co-Constructing
Stories’ (Buskermolen & Terken, 2012)
7. Iterate, improve the product/service over
several cycles of this process (Holtzblatt &
Beyer, 2014)
We involved a total of 11 journalists at Het Financieele
Dagblad (a Dutch financial daily), Algemeen Dagblad (a
Dutch general daily), Eindhovens Dagblad (a Dutch
regional daily) and the Dutch Organisation for Research
Journalism (VVoJ). Analysis of transcripts from
exploratory interviews provided us with descriptive
workflows and ideas that seemed promising for the
development of automated tools: the workflow to
handle incoming press releases, and the workflow to
report straightforward soccer news.
By identifying repetitive, rule-bound, inefficient tasks
(Frey & Osborne, 2017) combined with an assessment
of feasibility and journalists’ priority, we chose the
tasks of quickly checking some background stories of a
given press release, resulting in a prototype of the tool
‘Madi’, as well as the task of conducting a follow-up
interview, resulting in a prototype interview-bot
‘Charlotte’.
In the workflow for short soccer reports, we developed,
prototyped and tested a data and template-based text
generation service: an interface, called 'PASS' (Van der
Lee & Krahmer, 2017) that now generates soccer
reports, but that will be evolved for other journalistic
fields (finances, police reports) later on. 'PASS' enables
friends and family of people, who play soccer as a
hobby, to keep in touch about the latest games and
ranking, within their local contexts.
In evaluating and testing these prototypes with
journalists and, in the case of PASS also with other
end-users, not only did we validate the experience and
usability of these systems but also whether the design
method provided us with the right product idea for that
specific situation, following Christopher Frayling’s
concept of conducting research through design (1993).
Results
Press-release background summary tool ‘Madi’ was
accepted positively and we predict this kind of tool will
become commonplace and widely used: "Providing
structuring of information and summaries is very
valuable" said one journalist (Hermens 2016).
For interview-bot Charlotte, journalists saw many
applications, from following up on press releases, “I can
put out some feelers to see if it's going to get
anywhere” according to one journalist, to collecting
evidence for larger stories, as well as large-scale
investigative journalism, such as when they would
normally send out a questionnaire (Verdonk, 2016).
Evaluations with sports journalists, hobby soccer
players and spectators revealed that there is a need for
the kind of hyper-local soccer news that PASS provides.
Although we were able to get automatic Dutch-
language generation working for news articles about
soccer (Van der Lee & Krahmer, 2017), the next step in
getting this system live will have to focus on real-time
collection and verification of data during amateur
soccer matches.
Conclusions
This research was started with the goal of designing a
method that can be used to find opportunities for
designing and validating tools that help journalists do
their work better, as well as utilise machine-written
news in contexts where there is currently an unfulfilled
need for news.
A positive effect of our method was that the evaluation
of these tools, which we did with a wide range of
journalists, uncovered more applications for the
technology than we had originally foreseen.
The main contribution of our research is our custom-
made design method; a practical guide on how to
design automated tools for journalism in a human-
centred way. Our method allows for a journalist-
focused, positive perspective on algorithmic news:
instead of viewing journalism as a practice in need of
replacing, we provide a holistic way to look at
journalistic ways of working where there are many
promising opportunities for innovation and
enhancement using natural language generation and
other artificially intelligent technologies.
Taking this holistic perspective might prove to be key
when aiming for evolution towards journalist-machine
‘centaurs’ (Kelly, 2017) that will be able to achieve
more than either humans or machines alone.
References
Boom, T. (2015). Fontys Hogescholen ontvangt zeven
ton voor onderzoek naar robotjournalistiek. Nederlands
Medianieuws. Retrieved d.d. May 2015 from:
http://www.nederlandsmedianieuws.nl/media-
nieuws/Fontys-Hogescholen-ontvangt-zeven-ton-voor-
onderzoek-naar-robotjournalistiek.html
Buchenau, M., Suri, J. F. (2000). Experience
prototyping. In Proceedings of the 3rd conference on
Designing interactive systems: processes, practices,
methods, and techniques (pp. 424-433). ACM.
Buskermolen, D. O., Terken, J. (2012). Co-constructing
stories: a participatory design technique to elicit in-
depth user feedback and suggestions about design
concepts. In Proceedings of the 12th Participatory
Design Conference: Exploratory Papers, Workshop
Descriptions, Industry Cases-Volume 2 (pp. 33-36).
ACM.
De Botton, A. (2014). The news: a user's manual.
Penguin UK.
Dörr, K. N. (2016). Mapping the field of Algorithmic
Journalism. Digital Journalism, 4(6), 700-722.
Fontys FutureMediaLab. Research on Robot Journalism
(2015). Retrieved d.d. March 2017 from:
http://futuremedialab.nl/onderzoekrobotjournalistiek/
Frayling, C. Research in Art and Design. Royal College
of Art Research Papers 1, 1 (1993),1-5.
Frey, C. B., Osborne, M. A. (2017). The future of
employment: how susceptible are jobs to
computerisation? Technological Forecasting and Social
Change, 114, 254-280.
Hermens, N. (2016). Robotjournalistiek, een blik op de
toekomst. Unpublished Bachelor's thesis, Fontys ICT,
Media Design department, Eindhoven.
Holtzblatt, K., Beyer, H. (2014). Contextual Design:
Evolved. Synthesis Lectures on Human-Centered
Informatics, 7(4), 1-91.
Kasem, A., Waes, M., Wannet, K. (2015). What’s
New(s). Scenarios on the Future of Journalism. Van de
Bunt Adviseurs, issued by the Dutch Journalism Fund
(Stimuleringsfonds voor de Journalistiek).
Kelly, K. (2017). The inevitable: understanding the 12
technological forces that will shape our future. Penguin.
Landman, L., Kik, Q., Hermans, E. A. H. M., &
Hietbrink, N. R. (2015). Nieuwsvoorziening in de regio
2014:" Gelukkig zijn hier geen journalisten". Diemen:
AMB.
Linden, C. G. (2017). Decades of Automation in the
Newsroom: Why are there still so many jobs in
journalism? Digital Journalism, 5(2), 123-140.
Salovaara, A., Mannonen, P. (2005). Use of future-
oriented information in user-centered product concept
ideation. Human-Computer Interaction-INTERACT
2005, 727-740.
Van der Kaa, H., Krahmer, E. (2014, October).
Journalist versus news consumer: The perceived
credibility of machine written news. In Proceedings of
the Computation+Journalism conference.
Van der Lee, C., Krahmer, E. (2017) PASS: A Dutch
data-to-text system for soccer, targeted towards
specific audiences. Manuscript submitted for
publication.
Verdonk, A (2016). Kwootjes jagen? Laat dat maar
over aan de chatbot. Nieuwe Journalistiek. Retrieved
d.d. December 2016 from:
http://nieuwejournalistiek.nl/automatisering/2016/09/0
5/kwootjes-jagen-laat-dat-maar-over-aan-de-chatbot/
Zoon, H., Cremers, A., & Eggen, B. (2014). ‘Include’, a
Toolbox of User Research for Inclusive Design. In
Proceedings of the Chi Sparks 2014 Conference, 113.
Biographies
Hanna Zoon studied at the Design Academy, ran her
own design studio and completed the TU/e Master
Industrial Design where she caught a fascination for
user research and interaction design. She completed
her studies with a cum laude graduation project on user
research for small ICT companies at Dutch research
institution TNO. Today she is a researcher and teacher
at the Fontys ICT & Media Design department as well
as the FutureMediaLab.
Jeske van Dongen studied musicology and Dutch
language and culture. In her PhD thesis, she focused on
the transition in different records of songs, both
melodies and lyrics, in oral as well as in written
tradition. She was a teacher in Dutch language and
works as researcher and writer. She is research leader
of the ‘Automated Journalism’ project funded by SIA, in
which researchers of Tilburg University and Fontys
University of Applied Sciences join forces with
important players in the journalistic workfield: ‘De
Persgroep’, ‘Vereniging van Onderzoeksjournalisten’
and ‘NDP Nieuwsmedia’.
Jorge Alves Lino is professor of applied sciences
(lector) in Media, Interaction and Storytelling and the
head of the FutureMediaLab at the Fontys University of
Applied Sciences. His research focuses on the
transformative qualities of experience design and its
impact on society. Jorge has been building a broad
background that ranges between the cultural,
marketing and industrial sector. His academic mission
is to bridge academia, industry and society in
meaningful relations and collaborations, with the
ultimate goal of generating relevant new insights and
knowledge that are impactful for the social, cultural and
professional contexts they are developed with and for.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
With software automatically producing texts in natural language from structured data, the evolution of natural language generation (NLG) is changing traditional news production. The paper answers the question if NLG is able to perform functions of professional journalism on a technical level first. A technological potential analysis therefore uncovers the technological limitations and possibilities of NLG, accompanied by an institutional classification following Weischenberg, Malik, and Scholl (2006). Overall, NLG is explained within the framework of algorithmic selection (Latzer et al. 2014) and along its technological functionality. The second part of this paper focuses on the economic potential of NLG in journalism as well as indicates its institutionalization on an organizational level. 13 semi-structured interviews with representatives of the most relevant service providers detail the current market situation. Following Heuss (1965), the development of the NLG market is classified into phases. In summary, although the market for NLG in journalism is still at an early stage of market expansion with only few providers and journalistic products available, NLG is able to perform tasks of professional journalism on a technical level. The analysis therefore sets the basis to analyze upcoming challenges for journalism research at the intersection of technology and big data. You can get a pre-published version of this article if you write me an email. The final version of this article will be published on 2 November 2015 in Digital Journalism: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rdij20#.VhTswCtqOVY
Conference Paper
Full-text available
In order to empower more people to become more self-reliant in society, interactive products and services should better match the skills and values of diverse user groups. In inclusive design, relevant end-user groups are involved early on and throughout the design and development process, leading to a better user experience. However, for IT businesses not operating in the academic domain, getting access to appropriate user research methods is difficult. This paper describes the design and prototype development of the Include Toolbox, in close cooperation with practitioners of small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in IT. It consists of an interactive app paired with a book. The app helps to find suitable research methods for diverse user groups such as older people, people with low literacy, and children. The book offers background information on the advantages of inclusive design, information on different user groups, and best practices shared by other companies.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
In this paper, we describe "Experience Prototyping" as a form of prototyping that enables design team members, users and clients to gain first-hand appreciation of existing or future conditions through active engagement with prototypes. We use examples from commercial design projects to illustrate the value of such prototypes in three critical design activities: understanding existing experiences, exploring design ideas and in communicating design concepts.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
User-centered product concept design aims at creating concepts of new products. Its success is dependent on the design team's ability to use pre- sent-day information to come up with concepts concerning future products. This paper takes as its task to investigate and explore what underlies this use of future-oriented information and what challenges it poses at the creative stages of a design process. The proposed solution is based on an analytic division of available information into (1) trends such as company strategies, trends in the society and working life that denote changing conditions, and (2) stable context features that describe issues that are unlikely to change in the timeframe con- cerned. A small case study is presented that exemplifies how this analytic dis- tinction can be put into use. More broadly, the paper encourages designers to think reflectively about the nature of information on which design decisions are based.
Article
This case study takes a brief look at commercial operations with automated news in the United States as well as five European countries to explore how the logic of journalism has been interpreted and translated into software and how industry experts anticipate the future. The empirical material consists of 31 qualitative research interviews with data journalists, news managers, computer scientists, academics and industry experts that inhabit and reproduce this new ecosystem of computation, journalism and statistics. Theoretically the study is inspired by a social constructionist perspective, arguing that social action is a central element in technological development: there are many forms of friction that creates barriers to increased automation. It would be naive to think that the development of learning algorithms will not lead to more advanced forms of automated news, however, journalists have shown a strong capacity for adaptation and mitigation of new technology. The paper turns the usual discussion about job losses on its head and asks “Why are there still so many jobs in journalism after decades of newsroom automation?” We argue that journalism as ideology, understanding how journalists give meaning to their work, probably will be a strong mitigating effect also in the future.
Article
We examine how susceptible jobs are to computerisation. To assess this, we begin by implementing a novel methodology to estimate the probability of computerisation for 702 detailed occupations, using a Gaussian process classifier. Based on these estimates, we examine expected impacts of future computerisation on US labour market outcomes, with the primary objective of analysing the number of jobs at risk and the relationship between an occupations probability of computerisation, wages and educational attainment.
Fontys Hogescholen ontvangt zeven ton voor onderzoek naar robotjournalistiek. Nederlands Medianieuws from: http://www.nederlandsmedianieuws.nl/medianieuws/Fontys-Hogescholen-ontvangt-zeven-ton-vooronderzoek-naar-robotjournalistiek Experience prototyping
  • T Boom
Boom, T. (2015). Fontys Hogescholen ontvangt zeven ton voor onderzoek naar robotjournalistiek. Nederlands Medianieuws. Retrieved d.d. May 2015 from: http://www.nederlandsmedianieuws.nl/medianieuws/Fontys-Hogescholen-ontvangt-zeven-ton-vooronderzoek-naar-robotjournalistiek.html Buchenau, M., Suri, J. F. (2000). Experience prototyping. In Proceedings of the 3rd conference on Designing interactive systems: processes, practices, methods, and techniques (pp. 424-433). ACM.