Doctor of Philosophy candidate
Master of Communication Studies
Bachelor of Communication Studies in Journalism
How do algorithms and AI influence journalism? That’s the interesting topic Haley Jones is currently exploring for her Doctor in Philosophy in communication studies.
“My research is on the use of automated technologies like algorithms and AI in New Zealand newsrooms. How do journalists use these technologies? How do they influence journalist behaviour? The news media plays a crucial democratic role by informing society and facilitating public discourse, so it’s important to keep a critical eye on how the news environment is changing in response to new technologies and the wider impacts this may be having.
“I’ve always been fascinated by journalism and the media field. I majored in journalism and worked a number of jobs in the media, including working in the TVNZ newsroom while completing my master’s degree. That is when I first noticed that algorithmic software was present in the newsroom, and it got me wondering how extensive this software is and if it is influencing the news creation process.”
Haley’s research is supervised by Professor Verica Rupar and Dr Merja Myllylahti from AUT’s School of Communication Studies.
Researching her passion
She had long wanted to do a PhD, says Haley who received a Dean’s Award for Excellence for her master’s degree thesis and an AUT Doctoral Scholarship to support her PhD.
“When I finished my AUT master’s degree, I immediately wanted to start my PhD but the timing wasn’t quite right. I wasn’t sure about the topic, and, at that stage, I hadn’t worked a full-time job yet. I felt like I had to go out and do something different.
“So I left AUT and got a marketing job at an architectural firm. After a couple of years – and with the COVID-19 pandemic putting a few things into perspective for me – I decided that I still wanted to pursue that PhD goal. I feel pretty lucky to be enrolled in the programme now. I get to dedicate my time to researching my passion and my work will hopefully play a part in expanding the knowledge in my field.”
The people she met are what she has enjoyed most about her time at university.
“Some of the best media and journalism scholars in the country are at AUT, so it felt like the right place for me to be. There are so many brilliant people that have made an impact in one way or another, whether they were lecturers, colleagues, administration staff or students. I’ve had the privilege of studying alongside some incredible people who have inspired me, pushed me to be better and lent me a listening ear when needed. I’ve made lifelong friends from my time at AUT.”
Tackling a doctoral degree
The transition to self-directed learning at postgraduate level was quite challenging, Haley admits.
“When you’re a PhD student, no one is checking your attendance anymore and while your supervisors give you guidance and support, your progress is your own responsibility. This is both extremely cool and extremely terrifying.
“I had to develop a lot of self-discipline and time management – and quickly! I’ve been really lucky to have had some really patient lecturers who provided all the right guidance and gentle nudges to get me thinking more critically and to challenge myself.”
She wouldn’t hesitate to recommend doctoral study to other students.
“If you have a passion for a particular topic, the impact you could potentially make in your field by doing a PhD is so worth it. The beauty of the media and communications field is that it’s so rich and constantly evolving, especially with the rise of technologies like AI that challenge what it means to ‘communicate’. The research opportunities are endless and exciting.”