Between fear and confidence

The dual relationship between journalists and news automation


  • Laurence Dierickx Université Libre de Bruxelles (ReSIC)



headlines, journalism, news automation, public discourses, robot metaphor, technological imaginaries


The phenomenon of news automation is viewed ambivalently by news professionals, who understand that it promises to give journalists more time to focus on their key activities but who also fear job losses and perceive new ethical questions relating to its use. Although automated news production methods refer to software or algorithmic processes that convert structured data into text or visual representations, a ‘robot’ metaphor is often used to describe the activity. Does this metaphor influence the mediatic discourses of journalists when they write about automated news within their professional context? How do they give meaning to the information? Do they observe an enunciative withdrawal? The present corpus-based research focuses on 300 headlines published online in English and French in a variety of countries over eight years. The findings show that journalists do not limit themselves to facts when they write about a subject connected to them, and that although in this instance the two groups studied do share some preoccupations, there are nuances between them. Those nuances lie in the opposition between the expression of feelings of fear (of losing their jobs or professional identity) and the expression of feelings of confidence (in the future or in progress). It was also found that the use of robot metaphors influenced these trends but in opposite directions.

Author Biography

Laurence Dierickx, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ReSIC)

Laurence Dierickx holds a PhD in Science of Information and Communication from Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB, Brussels). Her research focuses on the integration of news automation within professional practices. She is currently an assistant at the faculty of journalism at ULB, and a scientific collaborator at the ReSIC research centre.


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How to Cite

Dierickx, L. . (2021). Between fear and confidence: The dual relationship between journalists and news automation. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, 15(3), 239–264.