Microsoft Fires News Journalists in Shift to AI

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

The takeaways

  • 27 journalists will lose their jobs working with Microsoft by the end of the month in a “global shift” to automation.

  • AI will take over their roles selecting, curating and editing stories for Microsoft-owned homepages.

  • PA Media-based editorial team faces an uncertain future.

What happened?

On Thursday, May 28th, around 27 journalists employed by PA Media (formerly the Press Association) were informed that Microsoft would no longer require their services selecting, curating and editing news stories for inclusion on Microsoft-owned MSN’s website and the Edge browser’s homepage from July 2020 onwards. Instead, these tasks will be automated via artificial intelligence software. The decision was taken at short notice.

The mandated tasks included selecting stories released by other news organisations and, where necessary, editing content and headlines for Microsoft’s format. Microsoft then hosted the articles on its pages and shared the advertising revenue with the original publishers. A Microsoft spokesperson stated that the move was a business decision taken without influence from the current pandemic. Although a number of tech companies are experimenting with applying AI to journalism, automated article production has not become widespread.

The pandemic has significantly and adversely affected the news and publishing landscape. In line with other organisations, PA Media has adopted a policy of staff pay cuts and furloughs, despite recent portfolio diversification via the purchase of stock image company Alamy. Whilst some of the fired journalists were well established in the industry, others were just starting out in a field where cuts are common. It is anticipated that Microsoft’s decision will further affect other global teams curating news websites.

Where to learn more:

To read more, see the full article here.

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