Another machine replacing me again?

Those of us in the news biz may refuse to accept it, but we’re being replaced by machines that soon may win a Pulitzer Prize for reporting.PRINTER AT PRESS

I know this is true because I just read that a machine can write a Little League story faster than I can blink an eye. Feed the machine the box score and other standard data and out comes a story that reads like this:

Friona fell 10-8 to Boys Ranch in five innings on Monday at Friona despite racking up seven hits and eight runs.

Friona was led by a flawless day at the dish by Hunter Sundre, who went 2-2 against Boys Ranch pitching.

That’s the example cited by Steven Levy in Wired, which published a story titled: “Can an Algorithm Write a Better News Story Than a Human Reporter?”

“Yes,” is my answer based on spending several decades as a newspaper reporter and as a university journalism professor. Continue reading Another machine replacing me again?

A Combat Photographer’s Life

It's what I do coverLynsey Addario chose a unique profession for a woman who wanted to see the world and who wrote about her life as a combat photographer in “It’s What I Do,” a book published this year by Penguin Press ($29.95).

For want of a better term, bohemian may best describe her environment while a child growing up in Connecticut and eventually while pursuing a career as a freelance journalist. She honed her photographic skills in South America and was working steadily in places like India, Pakistan and Afghanistan when she learned of planes smashing into the Twin Towers on 9/11.

She knew the territory and began covering fighting in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq not only as a foreigner but also in cultures where women were expected to remain hidden in burkas and homes.

She writes about being kidnapped and fearing that she would be raped. She photographed burned villages and countless dead in Darfur. She documented a culture of violence against women in the Congo and covered the civil war in Libya.

She devotes more than 50 or the 341 pages to color photographs taken during her decade of work as a Continue reading A Combat Photographer’s Life

Writing About Romance at 86

Deadlines coverAfter writing non-fiction for eight decades, I decided to write a book of fiction. Would you believe a romance novel, which raises eyebrows when I mention my new vocation to friends. Turns out that romance novels come in various shades of gray. Mine apparently qualifies as lily white because my characters only hug and kiss.

Although I had written a few short stories and had studied this art form extensively, I encountered a major roadblock as the project began. Previously, the challenge of non-fiction was in gathering information and presenting it without embellishment in a standard story structure. As a novelist I had to create characters, put them between a rock and a hard place and resolve the challenges they faced.

Fortunately, I based the first romance on people I had known and in a place where I had lived. I took liberties, of course, but I enjoyed sculpting my characters, making them fit the physical and emotional parameters of my puny, pigmy, pusillanimous mind. I soon discovered that I was ill prepared to Continue reading Writing About Romance at 86