Algorithms for journalism: The future of news work


  • Carl-Gustav Lindén University of Helsinki



Media Innovations, Robot Journalism, Algorithms


Software-generated news, sometimes called “robot journalism,” has recently given rise to concerns that the automation of news will make journalists redundant. These arguments follow a deterministic line of thinking. Algorithms choose information for users but are also the construct of social process and practice. The aim of this essay is to explore “the algorithmic turn” (Napoli, 2014) in news production. Based on case studies from three separate news outlets it is found that the impact of automated news is, first, increased efficiency and job satisfaction with automation of monotonous and error-prone routine tasks; second, automation of journalism routine tasks resulting in losses of journalist jobs; and third, new forms of work that require computational thinking.


Acemoglu, D., & Robinson, J. A. (2012). Why nations fail: The origins of power, prosperity and poverty. New York: Crown Publishers.

Akst, D. (2013). Automation anxiety. The Wilson Quarterly, Summer Retrieved from

Anderson, C. (2011). Notes towards an analysis of computational journalism. Retrieved from

Anderson, C. (2013). Towards a sociology of computational and algorithmic journalism. New Media & Society, 15(7), 1005-1021.

Bakhshi, H., Frey, C. B., & Osbourne, M. (2015). Creativity vs. robots: The creative economy and the future of employment. London: Nesta.

Berry, D. M. (2011). Philosophy of software: Code and mediation in the digital age. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Bijker, W., Hughes, T., & Pinch, T. (Eds.). (1987). The social construction of technological systems: New directions in the sociology and history of technology. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.

Bogner, A., Littig, B., & Menz, W. (2009). Introduction: Expert interviews—An introduction to a new methodological debate. In A. Bogner, B. Littig & W. Menz (Eds.), Interviewing experts (pp. 1-13). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Bostrom, N. (2014). Superintelligence: Paths, dangers, strategies. Oxford University Press.

Clerwall, C. (2014). Enter the robot journalist. Journalism Practice, 8(5), 519-531. doi:10.1080/17512786.2014.883116

Coddington, M. (2015). Clarifying journalism’s quantitative turn: A typology for evaluating data journalism, computational journalism, and computer-assisted reporting. Digital Journalism, 3(3), 331-348.

Cohen, S., Hamilton, J. T., & Turner, F. (2011). Computational journalism. Communications of the ACM, 54(10), 66-71.

Cohen, S., Li, C., Yang, J., & Yu, C. (2011). Computational journalism: A call to arms to database researchers. Paper presented at the CIDR, 2011, 148-151.

Cook, T. E. (1998). Governing with the news: The news media as a political institution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Domingos, P. (2015). The master algorithm: How the quest for the ultimate learning machine will remake our world. St Ives: Allen Lane.

Dörr, K. N. (2016). Mapping the field of algorithmic journalism. Digital Journalism, 4(6), 700-722.

Edge, A. (2014). Ophan: Key metrics informing editorial at the Guardian. Retrieved from

Ericsson, K. A. (2004). Deliberate practice and the acquisition and maintenance of expert performance in medicine and related domains. Academic Medicine, 79(10), S70-S81.

Ess, C. M. (2014). Editor’s introduction: Innovations in the newsroom – and beyond. Journal of Media Innovations, 1(2), 1-9.

Fairfield, J., & Shtein, H. (2014). Big data, big problems: Emerging issues in the ethics of data science and journalism. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 29(1), 38-51. doi:10.1080/08900523.2014.863126

Flew, T., Spurgeon, C., Daniel, A., & Swift, A. (2012). The promise of computational journalism. Journalism Practice, 6(2), 157-171. doi:10.1080/17512786.2011.616655

Fogel, D. B. (2006). Evolutionary computation: Toward a new philosophy of machine intelligence. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons.

Frey, C. B., & Osborne, M. (2015). Technology at work: The future of innovation and employment. Oxford: Oxford Martin School and Citigroup.

Frey, C. B., & Osborne, M. A. (2013). The future of employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation? (No. 103). Oxford: OMS Working Papers.

Garrison, B. (2001a). Computer-assisted reporting near complete adoption. Newspaper Research Journal, 22(1), 65-79.

Garrison, B. (2001b). Diffusion of online information technologies in newspaper newsrooms. Journalism, 2(2), 221-239.

Gillespie, T. (2014). The relevance of algorithms. In T. Gillespie, P. J. Boczkowski & K. Foot (Eds.), Media technologies, essays on communication, materiality and society (pp. 167-194). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Gore, A. (2015). The future: Six drivers of global change. New York: Penguin Random House.

Grint, K., & Woolgar, S. (1997). The machine at work: Technology, work and organization. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Gynnild, A. (2014). Journalism innovation leads to innovation journalism: The impact of computational exploration on changing mindsets. Journalism, 15(6), 713-730.

Hamilton, J. T., & Turner, F. (2009). Accountability through algorithm: Developing the field of computational journalism. Paper presented at the Summwe Workshop, 27-41. Retrieved from

Hanitzsch, T. et al. (2011). Mapping journalism cultures across nations: A comparative study of 18 countries. Journalism Studies, 12(3), 273-293.

Hermida, A., & Thurman, N. (2008). A clash of cultures. Journalism Practice, 2(3), 343-356. doi:10.1080/17512780802054538

Hipp, J. et al. (2011). Computer aided diagnostic tools aim to empower rather than replace pathologists: Lessons learned from computational chess. Journal of Pathology Informatics, 2, 25-3539.82050. Epub 2011 Jun 14. doi:10.4103/2153-3539.82050

Howard, A. B. (2014). The art and science of data-driven journalism. New York: Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University.

Hoyle Brown, R., Roehrig, P., & Malhotra, V. (2015). The robot and I: How new digital technologies are making smart people and businesses smarter by automating rote work. Teaneck, NJ: Cognizant.

Karlsen, J., & Stavelin, E. (2014). Computational journalism in norwegian newsrooms. Journalism Practice, 8(1), 34-48.

Kent, T. (2015). An ethical checklist for robot journalism. Retrieved from

Kidder, R. M. (1995). How good people make tough choices. New York: Morrow.

Kim, J., Lee, K., Kim, Y., Kuppuswamy, N. S., & Jo, J. (2007). Ubiquitous robot: A new paradigm for integrated services. Paper presented at the 2007 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 2853-2858.

Klein, S. (2013). How to edit 52,000 stories at once. Retrieved from

Kvale, S. (2005). The dominance of dialogical interview research. Impuls, 1, 5-13.

Latar, N. L. (2014). Robot journalists: ‘Quakebot’ is just the beginning. Retrieved from

Levy, S. (2012, 24 April). Can an algorithm write a better news story than a human reporter? Wired.

Lewis, S. C., & Westlund, O. (2014). Big data and journalism: Epistemology, expertise, economics, and ethics. Digital Journalism, 3(3), 447-466. doi:10.1080/21670811.2014.976418

Linden, C. (2017). Decades of automation in the newsroom: Why are there still so many jobs in journalism? Digital Journalism, 5(2), 123-140.

Maier, S. R. (2000). Digital diffusion in newsrooms: The uneven advance of computer-assisted reporting. Newspaper Research Journal, 21(2), 95-110.

March, J. G., & Olsen, J. P. (1989). Rediscovering institutions: The organizational basis of politics. New York: Free Press.

Matsumoto, R., Nakayama, H., Harada, T., & Kuniyoshi, Y. (2007). Journalist robot: Robot system making news articles from real world. Paper presented at the 2007 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 1234-1241.

McLuhan, M. (2011). The Gutenberg galaxy: The making of typographic man University of Toronto Press.

Meyer, J. W., & Rowan, B. (1977). Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony. The American Journal of Sociology, 83(2), 340-363.

Meyer, P. (1973). Precision journalism: A reporter’s introduction to social science methods. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Napoli, P. M. (2012). Audience evolution and the future of audience research. International Journal on Media Management, 14(2), 79-97.

Napoli, P. M. (2014a). Automated media: An institutional theory perspective on algorithmic media production and consumption. Communication Theory, 24(3), 340-360.

Napoli, P. M. (2014b). On automation in media industries: Integrating algorithmic media production into media industries scholarship. Media Industries, 1(1)

Napoli, P. M. (2003). Audience economics: Media institutions and the audience marketplace. New York: Columbia University Press.

Nunez, M. (2016). Want to know what Facebook really thinks of journalists? Here’s what happened when it hired some. Retrieved from

OECD. (2013). Skills outlook 2013: First results from the survey of adult skills. Paris: OECD Publishing.

Örnebring, H. (2016). Newsworkers: A comparative European perspective. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Örnebring, H. (2010). Technology and journalism-as-labour: Historical perspectives. Journalism, 11(1), 57-74. doi:10.1177/1464884909350644

Parasie, S., & Dagiral, E. (2012). Data-driven journalism and the public good: “Computer-assisted-reporters” and “programmer-journalists” in chicago. New Media & Society, 15(6), 853-871. doi:10.1177/1461444812463345

Pavlik, J. (2000). The impact of technology on journalism. Journalism Studies, 1(2), 229-237. Retrieved from

Polanyi, M. (1967). The tacit dimension. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Powers, M. (2012). “In forms that are familiar and yet-to-be invented” american journalism and the discourse of technologically specific work. Journal of Communication Inquiry, 36(1), 24-43.

Quinn, A. (2007). Moral virtues for journalists. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 22(2-3), 168-186.

Rahm, E., & Do, H. H. (2000). Data cleaning: Problems and current approaches. IEEE Data Eng.Bull., 23(4), 3-13.

Romenesko, J. (2014). Hyperlocal content creator journatic is renamed locallabs. Retrieved from

Saltzis, K., & Dickinson, R. (2008). Inside the changing newsroom: Journalists’ responses to media convergence. AP, 60(3), 216-228. doi:10.1108/00012530810879097

Singer, J. B. (2004). Strange bedfellows? the diffusion of convergence in four news organizations. Journalism Studies, 5(1), 3-18.

Sparrow, B. H. (1999). Uncertain guardians: The news media as a political institution. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Stavelin, E. (2014). Computational journalism. when journalism meets programming (PhD).

Stone, H. S. (1971). Introduction to computer organization and data structures. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Tarkov, A. (2012). Journatic worker takes ‘This American Life’ inside outsourced journalism. Retrieved from

Thompson, C. (2010, March 22). Clive Thompson on the cyborg advantage. Wired.

Thorén, C. (2014). Print or perish? A study of inertia in a regional newspaper industry (PhD).

Tunstall, J. (1975). Journalists at work: Specialist correspondents: Their news organizations, news sources, and competitor-colleagues (Repr. ed.). Beverly Hills, Calif: Sage.

Van Dalen, A. (2012). The algorithms behind the headlines: How machine-written news redefines the core skills of human journalists. Journalism Practice, 6(5-6), 648-658.

Wing, J. M. (2006). Computational thinking. Communications of the ACM, 49(3), 33-35.

Wing, J. M. (2011). Computational thinking. Paper presented at the OurCSWorkshop, 3.

Young, M. L., & Hermida, A. (2014). From mr. and mrs. outlier to central tendencies. Digital Journalism, 3(3), 381-397. doi:10.1080/21670811.2014.976409

Zhou, A., Qu, B., Li, H., Zhao, S., Suganthan, P. N., & Zhang, Q. (2011). Multiobjective evolutionary algorithms: A survey of the state of the art. Swarm and Evolutionary Computation, 1(1), 32-49.