Does Computer-Generated Journalism Pose A Threat To Journalists?

Computer-generated articles seem to be catching on, according to an article in Sunday’s New York Times.

Well, computer-generated articles that merely convert agate like sports scores or economic data into simple stories.

Narrative Science, an Evanston, Ill., company, seems to be perfecting the art of writing software that does just that. They’ve signed on a notable client, the Big Ten Network, which uses the software to generate game summaries.

The article has a “sky’s the limit” narrative to it, but there is a limit—at least for the foreseeable future:

“The leaders of Narrative Science emphasized that their technology would be primarily a low-cost tool for publications to expand and enrich coverage when editorial budgets are under pressure,” the article states.

It’s hard to see how a computer could conduct an interview, as well as have news and ethical judgment, and it is hardly believable that a computer could write a 5,000 to 10,000-word story for the New Yorker. Yet a co-founder of Narrative Science, Kris Hammond, quips that a computer-written article could win a Pulitzer Prize in five years.

Journalism is an art form, and it requires human interaction. Having a computer do that work, to me at least, seems like an accident waiting to happen. An inappropriate faux pas is just waiting to make it into one of those computer-generated articles.

And are computers supposed to generate story ideas? That’s one of the most difficult aspects of journalism.

For now, there are bigger reasons why journalists have to fear for their jobs (the economy).

But down the road, could we see this happening—or at least the technology to make that possible?