Journalists working for Microsoft are set to lose their jobs at the company as it prepares to shift to AI-generated news curation.
Dozens of human writers maintain the news homepage on Microsoft’s Edge browser and MSN websites, used by millions daily. But Microsoft is confident that bots can replace them.
On Thursday, about 27 writers working for PA Media, formerly known as Press Association, were told their services would no longer be needed from July when Microsoft will shift to AI-generated news pieces.
The decision by Microsoft to end its contract with PA Media was made on short notice. The employees were told there’s a worldwide shift in favor of automated news updates.
A member of the team who worked on the news website appeared to understand that they were rather expendable and said:
“I spend all my time reading about how automation and AI is going to take all our jobs, and here I am – AI has taken my job.”
The team behind the Microsoft news site did not write original stories. Instead, they selected and edited pieces by popular media companies such as CNN, BBC, and The Guardian. Since the articles are not original but are hosted on Microsoft’s websites, the tech company shares ad revenue with the original publishers.
In a statement, a Microsoft spokesperson said, “Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis. This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time to time, re-deployment in others. These decisions are not the result of the current pandemic.”
Some of the writers working on the news site have years of experience. The site also provided an opportunity for newbies to make a name for themselves in a competitive industry. The media industry was challenging, even before AI and if other sites follow Microsoft’s lead many more writers will lose their jobs.
Like other media companies, PA has had to face financial challenges. The pandemic has only made things worse.
“We are in the process of winding down the Microsoft team working at PA, and we are doing everything we can to support the individuals concerned. We are proud of the work we have done with Microsoft and know we delivered a high-quality service,” said a representative for PA Media.
Other big tech companies such as Google are also experimenting on the uses of AI in journalism. However, so far, only Microsoft has taken the bold step to automate news updates.