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Algorithms Killed the Pulitzer

look, ma, i'm in the news *sent from an iphone

Yesterday, Jason posted about companies ditching fulltime employees for freelancers, and hypothesized that freelance gigs will only get outsourced. The big East will replace him. Based off of a quick glance of Chinglish Fail, I want to say: Easy Tiger, fall down carefully. All your base are belong to us.

I’m not afraid of China. I am afraid of Narrative Science. Narrative Science, in case you haven’t heard of it, is a company that makes computer-generated journalism. A few algorithms can pull together sabermetrics, Wikipedia, and a photo and compose a sports story. Or election information, financial reports, market research, and local news. The question is: will the computer put journalists out of work? Or maybe even kill the field of journalism?

I’m imagining a future where the local news doesn’t poll Facebook users for a little Beat on the Street section (“What do you think about the recent snowstorm? Send us a pic!”), but will be entirely woven from status updates, photographs, event pages, and open notes. It will work like Watson and Google Translate and however Narrative Science works, relying on what’s already been said to articulate a synopsis of current events. We will all be citizen journalists, for better or worse. Our typos and 1337 shortcuts will be the New Journalism. Crash blossoms will fill headlines. News will be half gossip. The public and the private spheres will finally, totally fuse. We will protest and then accept. English will get weirder.

And then, in ten years, Narrative Science will use your Gmail account and write a memoir for you, sell it as an ebook for $3.99 on Amazon, and you’ll get a tiny percentage of the cut and a lot of public embarrassment. After all, even a kid in China costs a lot these days. 

One Response to “Algorithms Killed the Pulitzer”

  1. [...] and sell the finished books on Amazon. Betascript does this kind of publishing all the time. Narrative Science kind of does the same thing with basic sports/business [...]

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