Skout HQ was quite alarmed to read today that The Los Angeles Times is the first newspaper to publish a story about an earthquake written by a robot writer.
A journalist and programmer has created an algorithm that automatically generates a short article when an earthquake occurs. The LA Times pioneered the technology which draws on certain trusted sources e.g the US Geological Survey and places the data it extracts into a pre-written template.
The LA Times claims that the ‘robot’ doesn’t replace good old fashioned journalism it instead allows available data to be quickly gathered and disseminated.
Although it is clearly very clever technology being used to help tell a news story quickly and in only a few words, it’s surely only a matter of time before the algorithm is adapted for lengthier factual-based stories.
This move has to be bad news for the journalists who work on this paper and for the rookies who cut their teeth on these short brief news articles. And where is it likely to end? Will us B2B PR types soon be replaced by finely tuned robots capable of churning out press releases?
Our view at Skout is that robots can’t go and study journalism to learn how to investigate and report on a proper story and neither can they work with a client to spin their business stories and make them news worthy. Using a robot to create standard format copy is one thing, just don’t leave them to the clever stuff.