FREE ONLINE COURSE:

News Algorithms:

The Impact of Automation and AI on Journalism



Instructor: Nicholas Diakopoulos

Feb. 11 - March 10, 2019

With support from:


Welcome to the massive open online course (MOOC) “News Algorithms: The Impact of Automation and AI on Journalism” from the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin. For more information about the course, please read this story and the detailed information below.





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  • 1. Create an account in the Journalism Courses system. Even if you’ve taken a course with us before, you may need to create a new account. Check to see if your previous username and password work before creating a new account.
  • 2. Wait for a confirmation in your email indicating that your account has been created. If you do not receive this, please check your spam folder.
  • 3. Log into the platform, scroll down until you see the course listings, and click on the “News Algorithms: The Impact of Automation and AI on Journalism” course.
  • 4. A button will appear. Click “Enroll” to enroll yourself in the course. You will be able to access the course from the “My Courses” menu at the top of the page.
  • 5. You will receive an email confirming your enrollment.

Please add the email addresses knightcenter@austin.utexas.edu and ryansagare@utexas.edu to your address book to ensure you receive emails about the course.

For the next four weeks we’re going to peel back the mystery around algorithms and AI so you gain a greater appreciation for these technologies can and can’t do for news production and journalism. You’ll come away from the course with the knowledge you need to think more strategically, creatively, and responsibly about the adoption of these technologies in your practice.

  • Understand a range of use cases where algorithms, automation, and AI can enhance journalism, such as in computational story finding and automated content production.
  • Develop a critical eye to see both the pros and cons of algorithms and their use in your work and in society more broadly.
  • Gain a glimpse into how news algorithms are implemented and deployed in your work.
  • Introduction Module: News Algorithms Overview

    This module provides a brief introduction to the course and to the outline of topics we’ll cover.


    Module 1: Algorithmic News Media

    This module provides a broad overview of how algorithmic approaches are being used throughout journalism including in areas like content production and computational story discovery. We’ll talk about which tasks algorithms are good at, which tasks people are still better at, and about how to blend algorithms and people together in productive workflows. We’ll also talk about what it means to develop computational thinking skills and how to apply them in news production.

    This module will cover:

    • What algorithms are and how they’re used in news production
    • How data mining can help monitor for and discover news stories
    • How to apply computational thinking in your work

    Module 2: Automated Content Production

    In Module two we’ll get into a lot more detail on automated content production, including how it works and is used by news organizations, as well as covering its benefits and limitations so you know when it might be appropriate to deploy. I’ll also demonstrate the basics for how to write a template using a tool called Arria Studio, which is a word processor for creating your own automated content.

    This module will cover:

    • How automated content works and is used by news organizations
    • What the benefits and limitations of automated content are for news production
    • How to write a template to drive automated text production

    Module 3: Algorithms in News Curation and Dissemination

    In Module three we’ll talk about algorithms in news curation and dissemination, like at Google, Facebook, and Apple News, which use algorithms in different ways to drive exposure to content. We’ll also talk about how to think about metrics and how editorial criteria can be encoded into the curation algorithms that your own news organization might be developing.

    This module will cover:

    • The role and power of platform curation algorithms in news distribution
    • Approaches to content optimization and how to think about metrics for content optimization

    Module 4: Algorithmic Accountability and Transparency

    In Module four we’ll talk about how algorithms are creating a new object for journalistic investigation, which is giving rise to a specialized practice called algorithmic accountability reporting. I’ll detail what methods you can use to investigate algorithms on this beat, and I’ll talk about how you can be more responsible with the algorithms you might incorporate into your newswork.

    This module will cover:

    • Why investigating algorithms in society is important for journalism
    • How to approach investigation of algorithms using different methods
    • How to be transparent with your own use of algorithms in newswork

    Nicholas Diakopoulos is an Assistant Professor in Communication Studies and Computer Science (by courtesy) at Northwestern University where he is Director of the Computational Journalism Lab (CJL). He is also a Tow Fellow at Columbia University School of Journalism as well as Associate Professor II at the University of Bergen Department of Information Science and Media Studies. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech where he co-founded the program in Computational Journalism. His research is in computational and data journalism with active research projects on (1) algorithmic accountability and transparency, (2) automation and algorithms in news production, and (3) social media in news contexts. He is the author of Automating the News: How Algorithms are Rewriting the Media from Harvard University Press, and the co-editor of Data-Driven Storytelling, from CRC Press. For some of his latest thinking and writing on automation and algorithms in journalism see his column in the Columbia Journalism Review.

    This is an introductory overview course appropriate for media practitioners and professionals who do not have any technical background.

    Arria Studio (free online tool) will be demonstrated as part of Module 2. This is not a required exercise.

    First of all, note that this is an asynchronous course. That means there are no live events scheduled at specific times. You can log in to the course and complete activities throughout the week at your own pace, at the times and on the days that are most convenient for you.

    Despite its asynchronous nature, there are still structures in place for the duration of the course.

    The material is organized into four weekly modules. Each module will be taught by Nick Diakopoulos and will cover a different topic through videos, presentations, readings and discussion forums. There will be a quiz each week to test the knowledge you've gained through the course materials. The weekly quizzes, and weekly participation in the discussion forums, are the basic requirements for earning a certificate of participation at the end of the course.

    This course is very flexible, and if you are behind with the materials, you have the entire length of the course to complete them. We do recommend you complete each of the following before the end of each week so you don’t fall behind:

    • Video lectures
    • Readings and handouts/exercises
    • Participation in the discussion forums
    • Quizzes covering concepts from video lectures and/or readings

    A certificate of completion is available for those who meet all of the course requirements and pay online an administrative fee of $30 (thirty U.S. dollars) using a credit card.

    No formal course credit of any kind is associated with the certificate. The certificate is awarded by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas to attest to participation in the online course.

    To be eligible for the certificate of completion, you must:

    • Listen to the weekly video classes and read the weekly readings.
    • Complete weekly quizzes with a 70% minimum score. (You can retake the quizzes as many times as needed. Only the highest score will be recorded)
    • Create OR reply to at least one discussion forum each week

    At the end of the course, an online form will be made available for you to apply for a certificate. Once you have filled out the form and we have verified that you have met the course requirements, the Knight Center will send a message with instructions on how to make your payment. The verification process will take 3 - 5 business days.

    Please add the email addresses ryansagare@utexas.edu and knightcenter@austin.utexas.edu to your address book to ensure you receive emails about the course.




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