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Microsoft has announced that they plan to replace 50 of their journalists with artificial intelligence. Microsoft, which owns the news aggregation website MSN, announced the plan to lay-off the journalists at the end of June, at which point they will be replaced with the AI system. The plan is part of cost-cutting measures at MSN and Microsoft has stated the move isn’t related to the coronavirus pandemic.

As a news aggregation website, MSN works by collecting news stories from across the web and posting them on its own platform. Microsoft pays websites for the right to use their stories on its own website. Journalists at MSN work as curators, choosing appropriate stories for the website and deciding what they should and should not post. Now, Microsoft says their new artificial intelligence system is able to do the job instead. A small team of journalists will remain at MSN but the majority will be out of a job at the end of June.

Microsoft isn’t the first company to try this so-called “Robot Journalism”. In 2017, Google funded a robot journalism project which used AI to write news stories for local news media. The artificial intelligence systems are said to be capable of writing up to 30,000 stories per month. The hope is that this would provide people with more local news at a lower cost as local newspapers have struggled to remain profitable.

Journalists have questioned whether artificial intelligence can truly provide the high level of quality and integrity required for good news reporting. Some of the journalists from MSN cautioned that the artificial intelligence system may not be able to follow the editorial rules that they follow. They speculated that inappropriate stories may be erroneously posted on the website. The concerns are not unfounded, in 2017 an LA Times AI program sent out an alert about a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in California with the date of 29 June 2025. The earthquake had actually taken place on the same date in 1925 and an accidental warning from the US Geological Survey fooled the AI. Other news organisations didn’t make the same mistake because when human journalists saw the warning and the date, they assumed something was wrong.

Difficult words

Artificial (adj): Not genuine.

Aggregation (n): The formation of things into a group or cluster.

Lay-off (v): To take someone’s job away.

Curator (n): A person who works to maintain a collection of things.

Integrity (n): The quality of being honest.

Editorial (adj): Relating to the publication of written work.

Speculate (v): To theorise and think about.

Erroneously (adv): In a mistaken way.

Unfounded (adj): To have no foundation or facts behind it.

Activities

For listening practise, listen to the recorded article here:

British English:

American English: Coming Soon!

Match the Synonym!

1. Artificial A. Grouping
2. Aggregation B. Honesty
3. Lay-off C. Mistakenly
4. Curator D. Theorise
5. Integrity E. Fake
6. Editorial F. Unsupported
7. Speculate G. Fire
8. Erroneously H. Publishing
9. Unfounded I. Collector

True or False?

1. Microsoft will create 50 new jobs for journalists. T / F

2. Microsoft owns MSN, a popular TV network in China. T / F

3. An AI system will claim the majority of journalists’ jobs at MSN. T / F

4. Microsoft has said the move to AI is a result of the Covid-19 crisis. T / F

5. MSN writers normally create all their own original content. T / F

6. Microsoft pays other news outlets to use their stories on their website. T / F

7. Microsoft is the very first company to ever utilise “Robot Journalism”.  T / F

8. A small team of writers will remain at MSN. T / F

9. The AI systems are capable of writing more than 10,000 stories per month.  T / F

10. Local newspapers have financially struggled in the past. T / F

Unscramble the sentence!

1. journalists / they / to / plan / 50 / Microsoft / that / their / announced / of / replace / has

2. plan / cost-cutting / at / measures / MSN / part / is / The / of

3. stories / Microsoft / use / pays / for / their / to / right / the / websites

4. of / will / small / at / team / remain / MSN / A / journalists

5. erroneously / posted / They / be / stories / that / speculated / may / inappropriate

Listening and Vocabulary

Listen to the article and fill in the words OR practice vocabulary and fill in the words.

British English:

American English: Coming Soon!

Capable Announced Posting
Measures Accidental Inappropriate
Local Majority Quality

Microsoft has (1)_______________ that they plan to replace 50 of their journalists with artificial intelligence. Microsoft, which owns the news aggregation website MSN, announced the plan to lay-off the journalists at the end of June, at which point they will be replaced with the AI system. The plan is part of cost-cutting (2)_______________ at MSN and Microsoft has stated the move isn’t related to the coronavirus pandemic.

As a news aggregation website, MSN works by collecting news stories from across the web and (3)_____________ them on its own platform. Microsoft pays websites for the right to use their stories on its own website. Journalists at MSN work as curators, choosing appropriate stories for the website and deciding what they should and should not post. Now, Microsoft says their new artificial intelligence system is able to do the job instead. A small team of journalists will remain at MSN but the (4)_____________ will be out of a job at the end of June.

Microsoft isn’t the first company to try this so-called “Robot Journalism”. In 2017, Google funded a robot journalism project which used AI to write news stories for local news media. The artificial intelligence systems are said to be (5)___________ of writing up to 30,000 stories per month. The hope is that this would provide people with more (6)__________ news at a lower cost as local newspapers have struggled to remain profitable.

Journalists have questioned whether artificial intelligence can truly provide the high level of (7)___________ and integrity required for good news reporting. Some of the journalists from MSN cautioned that the artificial intelligence system may not be able to follow the editorial rules that they follow. They speculated that (8)_________________ stories may be erroneously posted on the website. The concerns are not unfounded, in 2017 an LA Times AI program sent out an alert about a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in California with the date of 29 June 2025. The earthquake had actually taken place on the same date in 1925 and an (9)______________ warning from the US Geological Survey fooled the AI. Other news organisations didn’t make the same mistake because when human journalists saw the warning and the date, they assumed something was wrong.

Conversation Questions

Take turns speaking with a partner or try to answer on your own:

1. Did you find this article interesting? Why or why not?
2. Did you learn anything new from this article? If so, what?
3. What do you think of this story?
4. Do you think robot journalism will become more common in the future?
5. Is it important to make sure news is written by humans?
6. Is it ok for companies to be replacing human employees with AI or machines?
7. What other jobs do you think might disappear in the future?
8. Do you think people will find new jobs that robots can’t do?
9. Should governments protect workers from AI replacing their jobs?
10. Would you trust news less if you knew it was written by AI?
11. Is your job at risk of disappearing because of technology?
12. Are there any jobs that you think could be done better by AI or machines?
13. Are people overreacting about the threat of technology taking away jobs?
14. Do you think technology will replace jobs quicker because of Covid-19?
15. Are there any current jobs that you think will never be replaced by technology?
16. Is it a good thing to use AI for writing local news that isn’t profitable otherwise?
17. Do you think AI taking people’s jobs will hurt the economy?
18. How could AI make your daily life easier?
19. Do we need to protect jobs or do we need to transition to a new system of living?
20. What tasks have you noticed be taken over by machines in your lifetime?