What if we could teach a computer to write news stories? Think of the bulk of content that could be created and how much could be shaved off of timing. In this fast paced world, we have come to expect up to date information at our fingertips in a flash.
Well, what if I told you we already had that technology? It's called Wordsmith, from Automated Insights. So far it has only been used to produce sports recaps and financial reports, but who knows how much the technology will be able to do in the future.
While I understand the appeal of such technology, as a student of communication, content contributor, and, above all, as a writer, I was understandably upset when my mom brought up the technology in casual conversation. I didn't even know it existed, much less that some of my favorite news sites may already be using it.
I can't say I was surprised, though. I'm currently taking a class about news writing, meaning I'm currently learning the "formula" for good news writing. Because there definitely is a formula for conveying important information in the most effective, readable manner. And if there's already a formula, that means with the right programming there can be an algorithm.
So of course we created one. Why wouldn't we? If it can be programmed into a computer, then it should be. Right?
I'm not usually one to come down against technology. I love technology. I have a smart phone and it helps make life a little more convenient every day. Thanks to social media, I've been able to keep in touch with my roommate from last year after she moved back to Paris. I'm excited to see how technology is changing the field of communication and I'm excited to be a part of the generation of professionals to navigate that change and establish the new norm.
But I don't know about this one. Sources say the news writing technology has a programmable "voice." But could a machine ever really capture the diversity of human voices?
It's doubtful. Odyssey is a prime example here. Think how unique each and every article is on this site. Sure, sometimes we all seem to have something to say about the same topic. Sometimes we're even saying some of the same things. But each piece is still unique to its writer.
Because every good writer has a voice. Getting the chance to develop my voice has been one of the best parts of writing for Odyssey for me. Now, even when I write about a popular topic, I'll still get readership because of the way I present the material, rather than because of the material itself.
Different readers are going to connect with different voices. That's the value of a site like this: there's something for everyone.
Odyssey, obviously, is a pretty opinion-oriented content site. But it's thriving. It's also not the only one of its kind.
More and more, people are turning to websites and platforms that cater to niche topics and present opinions about major news events. Websites and platforms where a writer's voice shines through. Just think of how popular blogs have gotten.
Opinion has always had a place in news. But in a world were we get the basics of a news story in 140 characters (or less), opinion is taking on a new role. Even if we will eventually turn to computers to tell us what's happening, we will always turn to other humans to tell us what it means.
No matter how advanced technology becomes, there will always be some things humans do best. Like connecting to other humans. Writing, while it may be indirect, is a connection.
The way we write about shared experiences, become the shared experiences.