Justin Myers says he isn’t automating away any jobs: he’s augmenting them.
Myers is the automation editor at the Associated Press, which is best known for its news coverage but has lately built software that can automatically generate and publish content. Created in collaboration with the firm Automated Insights, it pulls data from documents like financial earnings reports to quickly whip up stories.
The natural fear for anyone would be that the AP has created a job-destroying monster. Today it’s quarterly reports; tomorrow everything on a newspaper’s front page will come from robo-reporters. But Myers thinks the future is more about human-machine collaboration. “Computers are great at telling you what happened, but they are not good at telling you why it happened,” he says. “And that part is the area where humans really excel. Putting it in context and giving it that broader relational story.”
Instead, Myers is focused on streamlining processes for journalists by augmenting their daily routine.
Some of his day is spent working on graphics and writing stories. The rest of the time, he is working behind the scenes. “I might help somebody who has an idea on how they might improve their own workflow or an idea for a new product offering for the AP,” says Myers. “The other side is getting my hands dirty and building some of this stuff.”
His creations are primarily used for mundane tasks like scouting for news or writing repetitive stories, eliminating them from a reporter’s day. One program Myers helped develop monitors web pages and notifies reporters when they are altered—if the EPA website is edited, for example, or a company has released a statement. He has also worked on extending the AP’s automated story-writing software to cover new topic areas like the municipal bonds market.
Ultimately, Myers thinks it will become commonplace for reporters to work alongside the tools he’s building. “You get the best of both worlds there,” he says. “The computer saying what happened and the human providing the context.”
This article is part of a series on jobs of the future. Check out other futuristic job profiles here.
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June 11-12, 2019