By Jonah Bromwich, PepperDigital
Dramatic blog title, I know. And I wouldn’t be so dramatic if I didn’t have (a little)something to back it up.
This past Sunday, respected British newspaper The Guardian published a story entitled The Robot Journalist: An Apocalypse for the News Industry? The story was focused on the rise of robot reporters, which use a set of algorithms to take data and turn it into news. The ostensibly human Guardian reporter was quick to point out the “irony of the rather poor first-quarter earnings of the New York Times being reported into the Forbes database by a series of algorithms.”
The onset of machines taking over the field (or at least contributing significantly) presents a series of interesting challenges to those of us who work hand-in-hand with journalists on a daily basis. It seems to me that the real question is, now that machines are capable of doing this kind of work, is it in our best interest as PR people to promote them? Should we cheer them on as they storm the storied halls of the fourth estate? Or should we stand up for our historical partners, support the evil we know rather than the one that we don’t?
In some ways, dealing with robots would be far easier. With digital processing speed, they probably would take the time to read each and every one of our pitches. Their “circling back” with editors would take place instantaneously and though they might speak in monotones, they’d never be blatantly rude.
But though these things sound attractive (and maybe the press should take a lesson from the inherent advantages of their competition) the reporter—public relations bond can’t be denied. Sure we occasionally pitch reporters somewhat robotically, but we also talk to them, take the time to listen to their needs and interests, collaborate to bring them interesting stories and bring our clients some great media wins. With robotic reporters, that all-important human interaction would be gone and we’d be left working in a cold, metallic industry.
If anything, the onset of robotic reporters should make us cherish the things we get from the ones we’re used to working with. We should make sure to personalize our pitches, to ask reporters if they have a moment to speak before barging ahead with our own needs. To empathize and recognize the humanity that helps to build lasting relationships.
Besides, have you guys seen the Matrix? Or Terminator? Or Blade Runner? We definitely want to avoid that kind of situation, even if it takes being snapped at every now and again by a reporter staring down a deadline.