Thursday, March 5, 2015

This blog was written by HAL

Or Skynet, if you prefer.

You think it doesn't live, but it does, and it's coming for you. OK, so not for you. For me. Also for all my sportswriting colleagues, whose quaint notion that what they do is an actual craft has been crushed the way Linda Hamilton crushed Ah-nold in the last scene of the original "Terminator."

We figured sportswriting in its highest form was a skill and maybe even art, and that it was valued by our employers. Silly us.

This after the Associated Press announced it was going to start using Automated Insights, a "language generation" software, to automate its sports coverage, beginning with baseball. In other words, your next Cubs or Tigers recap will, yes, be written by HAL.

“Much like what we did for the AP around earning reports, I think most if not all of sporting events coverage, at least in terms of writing previews of events and recaps, should be automated to some degree,” AP CEO Robbie Allen told the Poynter Institute.

And if you're saying right now, big deal, nobody reads those recaps anyway ... well, that's probably true. I have to say I hardly ever read them, unless I was on the desk and tasked with editing them. And they are pretty formulaic. I supposed HAL could spit out "Jeff Samardzija struck out six and walked two in six-and-a-third" as artfully as any human.

But that presumes this trend will stop with recaps and previews, and it says here it won't. This is, after all, the newspaper business. No one's more adept at pinching pennies until they resemble copper cow flops. If they could use a machine to do it, they would.

CEO Allen admits, with barely disguised glee, that using robo sportswriters is going to save the AP a bundle. And because there's never been a newspaper exec who'd save one bundle if he could save four or five ... well, even the dimmest bulb can guess where this is leading:

Notre Dame Beats Army

By Grantland "M-5" Rice

Notre Dame beat Army on Saturday, 24-3.

Starring for Notre Dame were four seniors known as the Four Horsemen.

(A cultural reference to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a Judeo-Christian construct used to symbolize Famine, Pestilence, Destruction and Death. Additional background available by pressing Control AB, for "Additional Background").

The game was contested beneath a partly cloudy sky not unusual for October.


The Indianapolis 500 Is Not Conducive To Leisure Time Enjoyment

By Jim "iPod" Murray

(Colloquial phraseology conflating the traditional command to start engines at the Indianapolis 500, i.e., "Gentlemen, start your engines," with the event's notable tendencies toward fatal injury. Example: "Gentlemen, start your coffins").

I can't wait. To say, "To hell with this," that is.

Or, as they put it in an old "Star Trek" episode about a soulless society utterly controlled by a computer ...

I am not of the Body.

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