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Just the facts, Hal

12th May 2017

Journalism used to be such a human activity, based broadly on our insatiable curiosity and a desire to know stuff. People drawn to the industry were often thinkers, provocateurs and gossips fuelled by cynicism, wit and chutzpah.

Press desk reminiscences are fuelled by stories of mavericks, scoops and special relationships. Probably no-one applauds a sport report so detailed that every cross and pass is recorded or a business report that minutely tracks a business’s stock market activity.

This kind of information is important in its specificity. Created often enough it can build up data that lends itself to being crunched. And it now appears that it is the kind of story that a machine could write, and other machines – news aggregators – can harvest and collate.

A recent article in The Conversation looked at ‘robo-journalism’, automated software that “converts structured data into stories with limited or no human intervention beyond the initial programming”. It has already been deployed by several large news organisations – including the Associated Press, which uses the technology to write thousands of business stories every year.

So it clearly has a role. But it is not journalism.

In the same way that PingGo – a new automated PR service launched in Edinburgh – overlooks the creativity, intelligence and knowhow that underpin success in PR. What it can never deliver, is the spark that comes from reflecting business plans through an actual human prism.

Computers say no, but people (especially in PR!) say yes. And we deliver. And we smile. A lot.