When The Associated Press announced last year it was using software to write investment stories, the news was greeted with a mixture of wonderment and hand-wringing from journalists who feared that automation would affect the quality of coverage or lead to layoffs at the news cooperative.
So far, those fears have proved to be unfounded. Over the next few months, the AP drastically increased the output of the writeups and announced it was making moves to automate its coverage of NCAA sports. It also announced the hiring of its first automation editor, Justin Myers.
The man at the center of this push is Lou Ferrara, AP’s vice president and managing editor, who has championed automation as a powerful tool for saving its global newsroom time and money. I talked to Ferrara, who’s a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board, how the technology is changing the way the company thinks about news.
Besides sports and investment coverage, what else is the AP automating?
We’re automating a lot of different elements within the inner workings of the AP. As you can imagine, as a 170-year-old news agency, we had a lot of sprawling, legacy-type processes out there that consume people’s time. It may be just be three hours a week or eight hours a week, but jobs get layered in this business, particularly in a news agency. And we’re trying to eliminate a lot of those tasks so that we can use the resources we have to do the journalism.