Quality vs. Quantity: The Writer’s Hang in Between

In a Quandry

Satyam Nadella, the beloved CEO of Microsoft, cautioned the world that Artificial Intelligence(AI) might be a threat to jobs but there are no signs that AI would be able to write like Rabindranath Tagore anytime soon.

He made this statement during his visit to India. I found the observation intriguing, especially in the light of the conversation I had shared with a journalist friend recently . My friend works with a respected online news portal and was literally fuming as she confided that the ‘management’ wanted each of them to contribute 12 stories per day.

While AI might be a threat to some of the human jobs, it is evident that the online portals dependent on content for their survival, are attempting to convert the living, breathing souls into AI. The friend whose plight I have mentioned earlier is not alone in her predicament. The online news media and portals in their race to gain the maximum number of hits are constantly putting pressure on the journalists to write, and post audio-visual content at a faster pace than ever before.

Some would say the current scenario was inevitable. Since the day we woke up to the era of CNN spewing 24 by 7 information through television, journalism as we knew it, was bound to be disrupted. The advent of New Media simply hastened this process. As TV journalism of a new kind spread its wings, its first cousin, the online media revved up to the challenge. It transformed the landscape with real-time news access further pushing the boundaries of ‘live reporting’.

A decade and a half back, we had to wait to become privy to the latest political scoop, but today, I get an alert the moment a politically controversial figure such as Sasikala from Tamil Nadu is convicted by the Supreme Court. In a way life has become easy. My friends and I love the easy access to news. On the flip side, it has not been easy on writers and journalists who are expected to turn into robots and churn out stories by the dozens.

The constant pressure to break more stories and get it out there first often results in half-baked, badly written pieces and visuals that scarcely convey what they intend to.

As the gate-keeping is pushed further into the annals of history, this amazing instant access to news is also becoming a pitfall which results in quality being sabotaged unwittingly. I wonder if this pressure is the reason that we find stories like, ‘Techie catches wife in the act with sub-inspector’ floating around.

The plight of content writers for informative sites is no less tragic. With a high demand to get more and more content out there, authentication becomes next to impossible, the quality of information and technique employed in writing suffer tremendously.

Personally, I feel if the readers get quality content on a site, they are bound to return for more, than when they get sloppy fare dished out to them. I do not ever remember returning back to a site where the content lacks character and merit just because they have quantity.

While all of us who write have become much fast-paced than ever before and have trained our brains to collate information more swiftly, asking people to turn in a dozen pieces in a day is stretching it too far. Let us please remember that the AI have yet to take over the jobs of writers. Might be they will one day, but till then we are dependent on HI, the ‘human intelligence’.