May 25, 2021

How not to lose your job to a robot

Siera Jones

BOOT CAMP, DAY 2: Malcolm Moran, a longtime sportswriter who is now the director of the Sports Capital Journalism Program at IUPUI, is presenting his expert tips for writing the dreaded deadline piece. I’m furiously scribbling notes, living on a prayer that they’ll save me from the evening's upcoming test – my first MLB deadline assignment.

Be open to suggestions, he says. Turn the unexpected into learning experiences. Ask for tips.

Mr. Moran then drops a bombshell: A computer program could write my deadline gamer faster than I ever could.

The revelation first casts a shadow over my hopes for the night, then hits me hard enough to make me briefly contemplate the relevance of my future career. What use is there for eager young journalists who make mistakes, miss deadlines and scramble game stats when artificial intelligence is the brighter alternative?

However, I find myself back on solid ground after Mr. Moran offers words of hope: “You can bring conflict. You can bring the human element,” he says.

Good storytellers will always be in demand. While the robot that’s out to take my job can piece together words based on stats and data, I can bring humanity and context to my writing – even if it’s just a late-night gamer with a panic-inducing deadline.

Mr. Moran tells us to prepare for 100% even when 30% will do. Show up to the pressbox four hours early. Research as much as you can, and more often than not, you’ll reap the rewards. It’s a tedious process, but embrace it.

Prepare, prepare, prepare.

So now, as I pour over page after page of information that I’m certain won’t end up being relevant, I can rest assured that so long as I embrace the process of preparation, I won’t be in danger of being upstaged by a robot.

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