Breaking (the) News

Farrago Media to Cut Jobs and Employ Bots

7 June 2017

Three quarters of the Farrago editorial team will be replaced by a team of bots as part of an overhaul to the University of Melbourne Student Union’s (UMSU’s) funding, as the magazine moves solely online.

The Media Department, currently staffed by four editors, responsible for Farrago, Radio Fodder and Farrago Video, will be staffed by a sole office bearer in 2018, who will accompany the bots. To ensure a smooth transition, UMSU is encouraging a voluntary redundancy program.

UMSU General Manager, Justin Bare, cited prioritising innovation as the reason behind the staff cut.

“The whole magazine bit feels a bit niche, I believe the student community would benefit more from Farrago being an online source of information about campus happenings and UMSU events.”

Following cuts to 80 per cent of the Media Office’s budget, the portion currently dedicated to printing will be re-allocated to web design and bot development. This will lead to a greater focus on Farrago’s online presence and will see the current Web Team grow from 3 to 25 members.

A group of third year Computing and Software students have created a trial bot in collaboration with current Farrago contributors. Third year Computing and Software student, Rani Samarth, commented on the progress of one of the bots, affectionately known as Randy.

“So far with input from contributors and data from UMSU, the two most popular quizzes Randy’s created are ‘Which Union House Hash Brown Are You?’ and ‘Tell Us What Major(s) You’re Doing And We’ll Reveal How You’re Gonna Die’.

Samarth commented that Randy would be able to eventually receive facts from student journalists and compose stories. Samarth noted the bot is developing competence with words and imagery. Whilst Randy is being programmed to compose journalism pieces, he has an inclination for poetry which could be developed with more programming,” Samarth said.

Despite the radical changes, Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis championed the move as an opportunity for great minds to collide.

“Universities bring brilliant people together, and this presents a unique opportunity for students completing the Computing and Software Systems major and Farrago contributors. We will however, still rely on a human editor to make informed decisions about which trends in the meme market students should know about.”

Current students vying for the sole role of Media Officer will be put through a series of challenges to prove they are up to date with meme culture. Candidates will also have to prove they can run all different aspects of the media office by simultaneously releasing campaign videos, radio announcements and regular social media updates prior and during election week. UMSU believes the role’s emphasis on multitasking will prepare the candidate for the real world expectations of the modern journalist.

A memorial service will be held for Farrago’s print edition whereby anyone can submit a zine in homage to Farrago using a range of programs and techniques including collaging, MS Paint, charcoal and blood.

‘Breaking (the) News’ is Farrago’s satire column and is not to be taken seriously.


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