The use of algorithmic judgment for news selection and placement should be considered distinct from journalists’ professional judgment, argues a new article by Matt Carlson, of Saint Louis University.
The growing use of algorithms in automated news distribution and production challenges journalists’ professional judgment. As human subjectivity can be seen as vulnerable to mistakes, and algorithms as inherently objective and in need of implementation, professional human judgment’s legitimacy is reduced.
Replacing journalist’s judgment with algorithms has “significant consequences for both the shape of news and its legitimating discourses”, Carlson writes. The most visible shift currently is the trend toward personalization. The article uses the case of Facebook’s Trending Topics and fake news controversy as an example.
The need for journalistic judgment can be defended, as both objectivity and subjectivity are needed when considering newsworthiness. Journalists need to argue for their important role. Scholars should look at how algorithms change news production, institutional arrangements and the discursive legitimization of algorithmic judgment, the author suggests for future research topics.
The article “Automating judgment?” was published in New Media & Society and is available online (free abstract).
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