Jul 11, 2017

The Human Element – Is My Job In Danger?

Geile/Leon General
Geile/Leon

This post is a reflection on the article, Google is funding the creation of software that writes local news stories via TechCrunch

When I made the decision long ago to attend the University of Missouri School of Journalism, it was with the dream of becoming the next legendarily enthusiastic SportsCenter anchor. Growing up, I spent countless hours watching ESPN’s flagship show and reading article after article about my local sports teams. I wrote opinion columns and sports articles for my high school newspaper. I “announced” our games of touch football on the weekends, practicing for the day that I would step onto campus and take the sports broadcasting industry by storm. In other words, journalism has always been close to my heart.

Of course, college went as college is supposed to – my ideals were challenged, my perspectives were changed and most importantly, as my talents and passions became more clear, my goals and future were tossed completely up into the air. I realized how much I needed to be creative in my day-to-day life; and how little interest I had in covering high school football for the first twenty years after graduating.

Above all, what I realized is that while I do and always will love journalism, what I truly love – and why I felt pulled towards journalism in the first place – is telling and creating stories. And that’s why I became a copywriter. I get to be creative for a living. I get to put myself in others’ shoes and connect with their stories. I get to create brand stories. But if newspaper journalists – who write stories – are now threatened with job loss to automation, how soon will copywriters like myself – who write stories – face the same threat?

Don’t go firing up those resumes and looking for new jobs just yet. In the optimistic eyes of this copywriter, the answer is probably never. And the reason is that great stories like the ones copywriters and many journalists tell are great precisely because they were written by a human. Great stories are made great by the way they make us empathize with each other and feel connected to the people around us.

Sure, artificial intelligence can tell stories about numbers and facts. It can write about how a baseball team had four consecutive hits and won the game in a dramatic 9th inning. But it can’t write about how your muscles were sore the next day from being so tense during the inning. Or how it felt to hug the total stranger next to you during the celebration. Or how watching a team overcome so much adversity inspired and reinvigorated you to pursue your dreams in the face of whatever obstacles were in your way. That’s the stuff that makes a story great. That’s the stuff that’s human.

To a computer, the improbable win is just an improbable win, and the clothing brand is just a clothing brand. But to a human, the improbable win is a triumphant reminder to never give up, and the clothing brand is an outlet through which we express our unique personality and perspective.

As long as brands want advertising that means something, my job is safe. Because advertising that means something takes the facts and turns them into a great story which resonates with those who hear it. What makes great advertising is something that artificial intelligence will simply never have – the human element.

So no, my job telling stories is not in danger. And neither are the jobs of journalists who are paid to do more than report the facts by connecting the facts to our human experience. Copywriters are humans connecting humans with ideas and products that humans invented. And that’s a job that computers could never do.

Now account folks, on the other hand…

Just kidding.