Dozens of contract journalists will reportedly lose their jobs with MSN by the end of the month. The Seattle Times reports that Microsoft will not renew the contract of roughly 50 news production contractors working at MSN. Microsoft will replace the workload of these employees with artificial intelligence, according to people close with the situation that spoke with The Seattle Times.
The employees are currently contracted through staffing agencies Aquent, IFG, and MAQ Consulting. They were notified last Wednesday that their contracts would not go beyond June 30.
“Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis,” said a Microsoft spokesman in a statement. “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.”
Microsoft will retain full-time news producers that are employed by Microsoft. They fill a similar role to the contractors losing their jobs.
Speaking anonymously to The Seattle Times, some of the employees specified that AI will be utilized to replace their work. The tasks include using algorithms to identify trending news stories and optimizing content by rewriting headlines and adding photographs and slideshows. One of the contractors losing their job stated, “It’s been semi-automated for a few months but now it’s full speed ahead,” adding, “It’s demoralizing to think machines can replace us but there you go.”
In addition to the work mentioned above, the contractors also planned content and worked with partner news sites.