Will Computer-Generated Copy Make Good Writing an Endangered Species?

Meet Hal, our new writer covering sports marketing. Well, sorry…Hal can’t shake hands. He’s an algorithm. Recently, Hal (my name for him) has gone to work freelancing at several publications including trade publisher Hanley Wood and sports journalism site Big Ten Network and oh, yes, Forbes, as well. Hal is the invention of Narrative Science.

In all, 30 clients use the software–invented by Narrative Science that creates rich narrative content from data. Jason Boog over at GalleyCat reports that the software churns data into narratives, “fully customized to fit a customer’s voice, style and tone. Stories are created in multiple formats, including long form stories, headlines, Tweets and industry reports with graphical visualizations.” Dang!

As I write this, my desk is cluttered with books and recent New York Times and New Yorker mags. Here’s my question: How does Hal stack up to Malcolm Gladwell or Annie Proulx? Can Hal spin a yarn? Does he grasp the tension of the story’s arc?

Forgive me. I shouldn’t suddenly go all Luddite on you. But honestly, writers are rarely paid what they are worth. And really, do we need more mediocre content clogging the cloud?

I think not. But then, I love writing and books…and I’m hoping Hal will not be joining my team any time soon.