No humans necessary: print is dead, now so is the journalist?

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No humans necessary: print is dead, now so is the journalist?

It’s no surprise that robots have become part of the manufacturing workforce, but it’s not so easy to believe that creativity can be automated. The Associated Press (AP) announced earlier this month, that it will soon introduce automated technology to write some of its news stories.

This technology provided by Automated Insights using data from Zacks Investment Research is said to help boost the production of earnings reports and take over the drier responsibility of reporting company numbers. Previously people would write a couple hundred stories but with the use of this new technology the AP could now provide up to 4,400 earnings reports automatically each quarter.

“Zacks maintains the data when the earnings reports are issued. Automated Insights has algorithms that ping that data and then in seconds output a story. The structure for the earnings reports stories was crafted by AP with Automated Insights. All conform to AP Style,” AP Managing Editor Lou Ferrara writes on the AP blog.

This raises the question of more job cuts in editorial departments, but according to Ferrara’s blog post, that is not the case. Ferrara writes, “If anything, we are doubling down on the journalism we will do around earnings reports and business coverage. Our journalists will focus on reporting and writing stories about what the numbers mean and what gets said in earnings calls on the day of the release, identifying trends and finding exclusive stories we can publish at the time of the earnings reports.”

As reported by Poynter, Automated Insights is all about flipping the standard content creation model on its head. Automated Insights CEO Robbie Allen told Poynter’s reporter, Sam Kirkland “The standard way of creating content is, ‘I hope a million people read this.’ Our model is the inverse of that. We want to create a million pieces of content with one individual reading each copy.”

This isn’t exactly news for the Associated Press; it has been using automation for sports reports for years now. With no plan for layoffs or job cuts, the stories will begin to appear in July and will be labeled as being produced by automated technology.


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2 responses to “No humans necessary: print is dead, now so is the journalist?”

  1. Marcelo Bursztein says:

    I like this post. Machines are better than humans at tasks that don’t require pattern recognition that spans multiple situations. For example, machines are better than humans at Jeopardy, and until recently, it was believed that machines were better than humans at chess (the reality these days seems to be that humans using relatively low-powered computers can beat a chess supercomputer).

    However machines still do a poor job at writing poetry, cutting hair and perceiving signals only palpable to human senses. A Google car can drive itself just fine until you put a police officer directing traffic in front of it.

    As quoted in Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee excellent book The Second Machine Age:

    “One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.” —Elbert Hubbard

    • Maxine Patenaude Maxine Patenaude says:

      Thank you Marcelo, I love that quote and completely agree with you. It’ll be wonderfully efficient for the AP to introduce automated technology to write the dry number stuff.

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