NPR recently ran a story pitting one of its reporters against a computer programmed to write a news story. http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2015/05/20/406484294/an-npr-reporter-raced-a-machine-to-write-a-news-story-who-won

The computer wrote its story faster, but the result was an utterly bland recitation of facts.  NPR reporter Scott Horsley’s story had sparkle and context. As a discerning reader, I know which of the two I prefer.

Consider this: In the old futurist cartoon The Jetsons, food instantly appeared at the press of a button. Convenient? Yes, but how the food tasted never seemed to matter to anyone.

News has always been a highly personal exchange among source, reporter, editor and reader. Until the modern age, these relationships made the news business a very localized and labor-intensive enterprise.

With the rise of the digital age, news has become more fragmented in delivery. In pursuit of cost savings, news organizations have increasingly turned to the techniques employed by other industries, including outsourcing – and now, automation.

What this means to the news business remains to be seen. Will this return newsmaking to profitability? At what intangible cost?

Already, younger readers are eschewing traditional media for the more highly personal and self-selected delivery of social media. I believe that making news delivery more monotonous will only accelerate their defection.

I still work in communications and strive daily to tell compelling stories while providing reliable, relevant, timely information to the reporters and editors I work with.  This is a personal, one-on-one exchange that ensures the writer gets a fuller understanding of the material. Readers benefit from that in a way no machine can ever duplicate.

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