[Archive] News automation: 10 recommendations to promote ethical practices

3 septembre 2023

These recommendations are grounded by an academic literature review, interviews with specialists in journalistic ethics specialists, and guidelines published by practitioners. They should be considered inclusively since they involve journalists, the management of press companies, and social agents from the technological world. They can help to resolve points of divergence between social worlds whose views may differ on how each other exercises their responsibility. They were published in my PhD thesis.

News automation can be used as a final product that will be delivered to the audiences without any journalistic mediation or as a first draft that journalists will enrich with their expertise. These recommendations aim to provide guidelines to promote ethical practices, considering that news information is a public good that commits all stakeholders to the audiences.

1. News content generation should be considered, in any case, as a tool to support journalism. It should never be developed from a logic of cost reduction that would affect the journalists.

2. Tech people developing news automation should admit that they are participating in an editorial chain production and performing a journalistic act. Therefore, they should share the same rights and duties as journalists, considering they are also liable to the audiences. To facilitate journalists’ understanding, they should inform those about the logic of the implemented processes.

3. As much as possible, journalists should be involved in designing news automation artefacts to remain active players as professionals and experts in editorial processes.

4. As raw material for automated news production, the data used should be traceable with, at least, the explicit mention of their provider. Data should be accurate, reliable, and up-to-date in all cases, considering that only quality data leads to quality content. Errors should be prevented. As much as possible, fact-checking procedures should also be implemented.

5. Following the fitness for use principle, the structure of the published stories should always be adapted to the types of data processed and their application domain.

6. Regular human monitoring should be organised to guarantee quality maintenance over time. It concerns both the data and the automated productions and should be part of a maintenance strategy that includes error management.

7. The end user should explicitly explain and approve Any automation activity that relies on news personalisation strategies.

8. Any news automation project should be subject to preliminary tests with all the stakeholders and audiences, especially when the content generated is designed to be delivered as-is, without journalistic mediation.

9. When news automation is designed to support journalistic routines, the published content should, in all cases, be subject to validation or human mediation.

10. Any automated content should always be presented as it is, explicitly mentioning the author’s non-human nature. This mention should not lead to any confusion, for instance, by only saying the name of the tech provider.