Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Writing by computer - a good thing

No, I didn't say writing on computer, but by computer. Catching up on things and saw a bit of a flurry last week when the Financial Times reported that Thomson was using computers to generate routine earnings stories in less than a second.


Not a thing wrong with that -- almost.

What the story doesn't say is whether an editor looks at it before it hits the wire. I hope so.

I've said many times that were I starting a paper today, I'd have a computer write all those routine little briefs from press releases, etc., that we waste hours of reporter or news assistant time on. But nothing but nothing would be in the paper or on the Web before an editor looked at it.

That might defeat Thomson's reason for doing it: “This is not about cost but about delivering information to our customers at a speed at which they can make an almost immediate trading decision,” said Matthew Burkley, senior vice-president of strategy at Thomson Financial. (He does say the idea is to "free up reporters so they have more time to think.")

But checking to make sure it's right is a good thing -- especially if millions of dollars may be at stake, eh?

But back to my paper. I want my reporters, scarce resource they are, to be out getting and explaining the news, not processing it. Jeff Jarvis agrees.

And another thing -- I wouldn't own any presses, either, even if I were putting out a print edition. If I want to be a news operation, that's my speciality. Let people who specialize in presses buy them up, aggregate their resources and buying power and run them more efficiently than I -- or any newspaper -- could.


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