Only Churnalists — Not Journalists — will Get Replaced by Robots

Of all jobs, there are 8 that digital media futurist Amy Webb predicted would eventually vanish at some point in the future: toll booth operators and cashiers, marketers, customers, factory workers, financial middle men, journalists, lawyers, and phone workers.

I frowned and continued reading on. This might be a joke. Utter disbelief.

Webb argued journalists will be wiped out as the new technology could replace their functions as news gatherers. Webb, who used to work as a journalist at Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal, stated:”[…] the next culprit will be algorithms that allow news outlets to
automatically create stories and place them on websites without human interaction. Robot journalists (fedora optional) are already writing thousands of articles a quarter at The Associated Press.”

That, if it really happens, will be a calamity for us journalists.

But what we can do to prevent this from happening to us?

No worries. For versatile, professional and competent journalists, being fired and getting replaced by algorithms certainly never happens. Obviously algorithms have no creativity a human journalist has.

So be as indispensable as you can be, journos! Or else, you’ll perish.

Tentang Wawancara, Mewawancarai, Diwawancarai dan Membaca Wawancara

Wawancara. Bisa dianggap mudah saja atau tantangan luar biasa. Mewawancarai secara alami lebih dituntun oleh keingintahuan lalu terkumpullah serangkai fakta atau apapun yang diasumsikan seperti fakta. Klaim dan simpulan tak berdasar kadang menyelip di sana sini yang terpaksa muncul karena ingin hasil wawancara lebih bombastis dan menarik dibaca orang. ‎Dan mungkin, karena pemeriksaan fakta (fact checking) sudah harus mengalah oleh tenggat waktu. Maklum, pembaca makin tak sabaran. Dunia (merasa) makin tak sabaran. Ini sungguh membingungkan dan sejatinya mengibakan. Karena pewarta makin lama makin seperti budak saja. Upah tak seberapa, tetapi mesti bekerja menata kata dari berbagai fakta yang ditemuinya, tanpa kenal penat yang meraja dan redaktur yang semena-mena.

‎Wawancara kerap dilakukan secara impromptu. Alhasil pertanyaan-pertanyaan yang dikeluarkan sekenanya. Tak tersusun baik, teracak, tanpa alur. Kalaupun tersusun sebelumnya, hanya dilakukan di sela rangkaian aktivitas yang padat luar biasa. Bahkan karena otak beku, pertanyaan sering mengabaikan logika. Norma juga bukan kendala, etika juga. Lalu bagaimana? Ini semua sungguh membuat gila! Bagaimana bisa mencapai hasil sempurna?!

Tetapi mendapatkan kesempatan wawancara pun sudah beruntung kadang. Bukan sekali dua kali pertanyaan sudah tertuang rapi di lembaran dan ternyata harus dibuang ke keranjang karena ‎sang narasumber yang (berpikir dirinya) terlampau terkenal sulit ditemui langsung dan begitu sibuk, atau memilih menyibukkan diri dengan jurnalis-jurnalis media besar dan melupakan pewarta-pewarta media maya.

Sementara itu, ada sebagian mereka yang mati-matian menjerat wartawan. Membuatnya terpaku di suatu waktu dan bangku, mendengarkan perkataan narasumber gila publisitas tanpa‎ jeda lalu menyajikan berbagai suguhan menggoda. Dari voucher makan tanpa biaya, jamuan makan cuma-cuma, memiliki kesempatan mencicipi kemewahan yang tak terjangkau anggaran dari upah bulanan.

Pewarta mewawancara sering karena tak ada pilihan lain di mata. Ya sudah, apa adanya saja, gumamnya.‎ Tenggat waktu toh makin dekat. Jadi daripada hari ini kena damprat, kenapa harus kesempatan ini dibiarkan lewat? Tinggal rekam atau catat. Sisanya bisa dikembangkan dari fantasi atau hasil menjelajahi hasil yang disuguhkan mesin pencari.

Kecewa kadang mendera kalau narasumber incaran menolak menjawab pertanyaan yang merangsang perbincangan intens. Seolah ia menutup pintu. Terkunci di situ dan tak bisa melangkah lebih jauh. Yang hanya bisa dilanjutkan hanya isu-isu yang membuat jemu. Itu itu melulu. Rasanya sudah buntu.

Hati berubah gembira jika berhadapan dengan narasumber yang dermawan bukan kepalang. Satu pertanyaan sentilan membuka sekaligus banyak jawaban, bahkan yang tidak terlintas sebelumnya untuk ditanyakan. Terus, terus, terus gali saja sampai habis. Tandas hingga puas.

‎Sial, ada hal bagus untuk diberitakan yang keceplosan diucapkannya tapi ia beberapa detik kemudian baru sadar dan minta dirahasiakan. “Off the record ya…” Mungkin akan lebih mudah jika diabaikan saja dan tetap memuatnya dalam berita lalu menikmati pujian dari redaktur dan pembaca tetapi bagaimana kalau narasumber murka dan mencap tak bisa dipercaya? Susah juga ya.

Mendapat masukan tentang kesalahan padahal sudah menulis sesuai pernyataan? Bukan anomali. Bahkan frekuensi terjadinya bisa tinggi. Karena itu, jangan menggores pena tetapi rekamlah suara. Jari tak bisa bersuara, tetapi suara manusia yang bisa.

‎Diwawancarai apalagi. Tak kalah pelik. Apa yang harus dipersiapkan? Duh, nanti kalau tidak tahu harus menjawabnya bagaimana? Baiklah, jawab sebisanya. Ini bukan ujian. Rileks saja. Berpakaian terbaik, supaya kalau difoto tak akan mengecewakan orang tua dan kerabat serta sobat yang akan menjadi sasaran pameran. Percuma, karena si pewawancara tak bawa kamera. Punyanya Blackberry semata. Di hari mendung saja, hasilnya sudah kabur. Ia tak pernah meminta foto, jadi mungkin memang tak memerlukannya. Lalu setelah terbit, muncullah foto-foto di jejaring sosial. Sial! Baiklah, fotonya tak terlalu buruk tetapi bagaimanapun juga tak ada permintaan izin yang terlontar.

Spekulasi usia narasumber bukannya masalah raksasa. Bahkan bisa dikatakan propaganda biasa agar semua percaya itulah seharusnya usia berdasarkan tampilan di netra. Tak ada keberatan‎ karena kesalahan dari ketidaktahuan itu kadang sebuah kenikmatan. Namun, lain kali, akan lebih baik menulis yang benar-benar diketahui saja. Agar sang narasumber tak terkesan berbohong memudakan usia. Padahal ia tak juga berupaya menutupinya.

Waspada juga membaca hasil wawancara. ‎Mungkin yang berlebihan si pewawancara. Kadang juga si terwawancara. Acap kali dua-duanya. Atau kekurangtajaman pendengaran dan pemikiran yang perlu dimaafkan, bukan diperkarakan. Sepanjang tak ada yang merasa dirugikan atau disudutkan.

A Hotel with Newsroom Flavor; Hot or Not?

The Press Hotel is like no other hotels on earth. Probably designed for overly dedicated journalists who don’t mind at all spending their life days and nights, being chained at their working desk, the hotel is located in Portland, the US. It was not a brand new building though. Previously the hotel was a number of offices of Portland Press Herald but in 2010 was left unoccupied as the journos moved to another office building.

There are so many lifestyle facilities guests can enjoy right here. The Press Hotel has its integrated art gallery full of past remnants like archaic typewriters. It is not going to excite overworked journalists who in dire need of total break from their highly demanding jobs. ‎
If you want to get drunk, go drink some booze at “The Inkwell”. It is a bar with newsy taste in every inch of it. You’ll find artworks that look like things you’re likely to find at a typical newsroom back then.

(image credit : poynter)

How to Get the New Generation of Journalists TOTALLY SCREWED

Technology is never guilty. But still most people claim it’s a double-edged sword. I crack a smile. These people are mostly as f*cked up as the problem they’re talking about.

As ridiculous as it may sound, we might need to recall how all this mess in journalism currently is blamed on the surge of information technology. To me, it sounds like a fool trying to blame his own foolishness. Human race is just looking for a scapegoat, naturally. Because technology can’t avenge! Or at least talk to the creator back.

No one can rephrase the whole chaos in journalism industry any better like Jason Calacanis, a media entrepreneur cum seasoned journalist, does. And yes, nowadays journalism is also a field of industry. Like any other industries, it must generate profits, which at times sacrifices its then-highly-valued principles.

Here’s what I can sum up from Calacanis’ thought about the mess that the fresh, newer generation of journalists have to work and live with.

First of all, to screw new journalists’ work ethics and lives in general, you as an employer have to put too much pressure on these budding journos. Put the pressure with no mercy AT ALL.

Calacanis points out that more than 75% of the new generation of journalists out there are under pressure. Geez, he’s wrong in that almost all journalists are always under pressure, so are the churnalists (you know what churnalism means, I suppose). Pressure free is almost always impossible, except if a journalist writes for sheer fun. Yet, I agree with his idea that new journalists are now even more and more miserable under the inhumane demand of their employers.

“We know that a simple headline, factually correct, factually stated, accurate, does NOT drive traffic. But deception, lying, playing with words, bending the truth raises the number of tweets. What’s the impact on active journalism? Is this sending us in the wrong direction?!!” he questioned.

Another thing to make these new journalists screwed is leave them work days and nights without mentors. By mentors, I mean people who have the know-how, real experiences and time and resources to share with these poor young journalists.

Next, once they have no appropriate mentors, you can also strip them off their editorial assistance. That means they’re allowed to publish whatever they want to publish without any substantial copy editing done and rigorous fact checking the way old school journalists used to do.

Also, you have to push them. Like really really PUSH them to publish MORE content FASTER than their predecessors and at the same time remind them of maintaining VERY HIGH quality standard of journalism. Calacanis said they all are “a recipe for disaster”.

That way, if our new journalists make mistakes, offend people, or spread bogus news all over the world, they have no choice but take the blame.

That said, a mini apocalypse is on the way. To say the least, maybe democracy is falling apart.

But who cares?

(Image credit: Wikimedia)

Bagaimana Memperkenalkan Startup Anda pada Jurnalis, Tanpa Spamming

Bukan rahasia lagi bahwa startup-startup ‘haus publikasi’. Mereka ingin media meliput bisnis mereka. Mereka ingin semua orang
membicarakan produk dan layanan yang mereka luncurkan. Mereka mau brand mereka menempel di otak orang sebagaimana “Aqua” untuk air minum dalam kemasan, atau “Sanyo” untuk pompa air. Mereka mau kampanye marketing digitalnya viral hingga tingkat global di jejaring sosial. Entrepreneur pendiri startup juga tidak kalah ingin dikenal oleh publik dan dianggap sosok sukses dan bisa menjadi panutan.

Sayangnya, tidak banyak entrepreneur sekaligus pendiri startup yang mau bersusah payah untuk memilah-milah jurnalis yang ingin mereka tuju. Mereka biasanya membombardir jurnalis yang mereka telah dapatkan alamat surelnya dengan berbagai pernyataan pers atau semacamnya dengan satu keyakinan:”Siapa tahu mereka mau memuatnya?”

Padahal dalam sudut pandang jurnalis, menerima surel yang tidak dikehendaki secara terus menerus bisa cukup mengganggu produktivitas. Kita bisa bayangkan betapa repotnya memilih puluhan surel yang harus dibuka, dibaca, disortir dan dibalas serta kemudian diolah menjadi berita di kotak masuk (inbox) dalam sehari.

Kesalahan umum yang biasa terjadi ialah entrepreneur dan startup mengirimkan surel pada jurnalis yang memiliki minat dan bidang liputan yang tidak atau kurang sesuai. Misalnya, seorang jurnalis yang bertugas meliput sektor bisnis properti akan merasa terganggu jika dibanjiri dengan surel berisi press release dari perusahaan ritel.

Persoalan akan lebih mudah bagi entrepreneur dan startupnya jika diketahui bahwa si jurnalis memiliki tugas peliputan yang mencakup bidang yang relatif luas. Contohnya, jika seorang jurnalis ditugasi meliput dunia bisnis dan ekonomi secara umum. Tentu pengiriman surel pernyataan pers yang isinya peluncuran produk baru atau pendirian startup baru akan lebih dapat diterima. Namun, sekali lagi tidak semuanya demikian.

Mengapa mengirimkan surel secara membabi buta ke semua jurnalis tidak sepatutnya dilakukan? Karena selain bisa dianggap spamming dan merepotkan jurnalis itu sendiri, entrepreneur juga akan menghabiskan waktu dan tenaganya secara tidak efektif dan efisien. Ibarat berperang dengan peluru terbatas, Anda sudah menghamburkan peluru yang berharga itu dalam waktu beberapa detik. Hematlah peluru-peluru itu dengan membidik lalu menembak musuh dengan cermat dan tepat. Apa artinya 1000 tembakan meleset dibandingkan 1 peluru yang bisa menembus jantung pimpinan musuh?

Lalu apa yang bisa dilakukan agar entrepreneur tidak terjebak dalam permainan spamming ini? Yang pertama dan utama menurut entrepreneur media Jason Calacanis ialah membaca artikel dan konten yang dihasilkan oleh seorang jurnalis. Kemudian setelah itu, ikutilah ide-idenya di blog, jejaring sosial setidaknya selama sebulan. Jadilah pengikut akunnya di Twitter, baca tweet-tweetnya. Bertemanlah dengannya di jejaring sosial Facebook jika memungkinkan. Semua ini perlu sekali dilakukan sebelum Anda memutuskan menghubungi si jurnalis. Mengapa ini penting? Agar Anda bisa paham bagaimana mereka berpikir melalui apa yang mereka katakan dan tuliskan. Seperti yang dikatakan Calacanis, menghubungi jurnalis via surel tanpa mengenal mereka dan apa yang mereka lakukan dalam pekerjaan sungguh “sebuah kegilaan”. Ditegaskan juga oleh Greg Galant (salah satu pendiri Mucrack), bahwa 90% dari jurnalis yang ia survei mengatakan lebih menyukai orang yang menghubungi mereka sudah mengikuti tulisan-tulisan mereka sebelumnya karena dengan begitu mereka tidak cuma sekadar mengirimkan surel tanpa dikehendaki. Ada hubungan yang terjalin dan jurnalis akan lebih yakin bahwa Anda menyisihkan waktu untuk meneliti siapa mereka dan apa yang mereka kerjakan.

An Open Letter to Some Moronic, Stubborn So-called "Media Intrapreneur"

ev

Dear media intrapreneur,

You’re such an underperformer, even to admit you suck at leading in the first place. You know almost nothing about the industry and business you make money from and still you think you know it all and you’re pretty successful. Don’t you know you’ve always been our target of mockery for being so delusional. It’s delusional, as we all know, as we know who you really are in reality.

The first time I saw you, you claimed yourself to be an advisor. That was impressive back then. Now, I almost puke every time I remember that. Not that you’re disgusting in apperance or manner. But it’s more about what you talk and walk are quite different. You’d opened my eyes that not only males can brag. Females have the potentials as well. And I thank you for that.

First of all, I won’t call you an entrepreneur. Even in your wildest dream. But if I do, believe me it’s just a pure, honest insult for you.

I initially wanted to send you this piece. A very important piece of writing Evan Williams titled “Pageviews are Obsolete”. But I digressed. I’m so convinced your conviction that hits is everything is ARCHAIC, FOOLISH, SHEER REPRESENTATION OF YOUR LACK OF EXPERIENCE AND KNOWLEDGE ON MEDIA INDUSTRY.

But anyway, I’ll let you know his writing. Here it is.

Remember when web site traffic was talked about in terms of “hits”? You’d read about how many millions of hits Netscape got per month and other sites bragged about getting 30,000 hits a day. Eventually, we moved away from the term hit because everyone realized it was pretty meaningless. You see, a hit was often counted (depending on who was counting them) not just for a page load, but for every element (e.g., graphic) included on the page, as well. One visit of this page, for example, would be worth about 40 hits (if the browser had images turned on). But a site that was less graphical and had equal usage would register half the hits.
Pageviews replaced hits as the primary traffic metric not just because they’re more meaningful, but because it also determined how many ads could be served. Ads were sold primarily on a CPM basis, so multiply your CPM by every 1,000 pageviews you got, and that’s your dot-com revenue.
Reach (number of unique visitors) is also important, of course. comScore/Media Metrix uses uniques as its primary metric, because mainstream advertisers want to reach a lot of people, not just the same people over and over. You can also get pageviews, time spent, and several other data points from Media Metrix, but if you’re the number one site on MM, it’s because you have the most unique visitors for the month. Of course, if uniques were all that mattered, Blogger.com would be considered as big as MySpace by some accounts:

Whereas, if you look at pageviews, MySpace dominates:

That’s why Alexa Rank is a combination of Reach + Pageviews, so you get something like this:

But it’s this pageviews part that I think needs to be more seriously questioned. (This is not an argument that Blogger is as popular as MySpace — it’s not.) Pageview counts are as suseptible as hit counts to site design decisions that have nothing to do with actual usage. As Mike Davidson brilliantly analyzed in April, part of the reason MySpace drives such an amazing number of pageviews is because their site design is so terrible.
As Mike writes: “Here’s a sobering thought: If the operators of MySpace cleaned up the site and followed modern interface and web application principles tomorrow, here’s what the graph would look like:”

Mike assumes a certain amount of Ajax would be involved in this more-modern MySpace interface, which is part of the reason for the pageview drop. And, as the Kiko guys wrote in their eBay posting, their pageview numbers were misleading because the site was built with Ajax. (Note: It’s really easy to track Ajax actions in Google Analytics for your own edification.)
But Ajax is only part of the reason pageviews are obsolete. Another one is RSS. About half the readers of this blog do so via RSS. I can know how many subscribers I have to my feed, thanks to Feedburner. And I can know how many times my feed is downloaded, if I wanted to dig into my server logs. But I don’t get to count pageviews for every view in Google Reader or Bloglines or LiveJournal or anywhere else I’m syndicated.
Another reason: Widgets. The web is becoming increasingly widgetized — little bits of functionality from one site are displayed on many others. The purveyors of a widget can track how many times their javascript of flash file is loaded elsewhere — but what does that mean? If you get a widget loaded in a sidebar of a blog without anyone paying attention to it, that’s not worth anything. But if you’re YouTube, and someone’s watching a whole video and perhaps even an ad you’re getting paid for, that’s something else entirely. But is it a pageview?
Pageviews were never a great measure of popularity. A simple javascript form validation can easily cut down on pageviews (and save users time), while a useless frameset can pump up your numbers. But with the proliferation of Ajax, RSS, and widgets, pageviews are even more silly to pay much attention to — even as we’re all obsessed with them.
It’s about Time
So what’s a better measurement? Good question. Like many good questions, the answer is “it depends.” If you’re talking about what’s important to pay attention to on your own site, you have to determine what your primary success criteria are and measure that as best you can. For some sites, that could be subscribers, or paying users, or revenue, or widgets deployed, or files uploaded, or what have you. It may even be pageviews.
At Blogger, we determined that our most critical metric was number of posts. An increase in posts meant that people were not just creating blogs, but updating them, and more posts would drive more readership, which would drive more users, which would drive more posts. Of course, posts alone wasn’t our only measure, because someone could have written an automated posting script to fill up our database (which some did), and by that metric, we’re happy about it. So we paid attention to pageviews and posts per user and user drop off, and other things.
Of course, we all want to know how we’re doing compared to other people/sites/companies, so internal metrics aren’t enough. And things like Media Metrix and Alexa are paid attention to by investors, and advertisers, and acquirers, and the press. So some apples-to-apples comparison is useful. If I had to pick one, in addition to unique visitors, I’d say time spent would be much more useful than pageviews.
After all, everyone’s competing for a bigger share of the one scarce resource, which is people’s attention (although it is a growing resource, because people keep making babies, and those babies keep getting Internet connections). More or less, what you need is people’s attention before you can meet whatever goals you have.
Time spent interacting with a site is a much better basis on which to compare sites’ relative ability to capture attention/value than pageviews is. When it comes to media like audio or video, an increasing percentage of the web consumption, time obviously means a great deal more than a pageview.
However, time is a bit harder to measure. HTTP, being stateless, doesn’t actually have a concept of time spent. If you read this whole post and then click off to another site, my web server won’t know whether you were here for five minutes or five seconds. However, most web analytics packages do estimate time spent (as does Media Metrix). (The Alexa toolbar could actually measure it even better.)
Widgets are still a bit tricky, because a user may or may not be paying any attention to a widget that’s on a page they’re viewing. If you could measure time spent interacting with a widget (or media being streamed through the widget), that would be ideal. RSS consumption is harder to measure by time, but there are other efforts to measure attention in that realm.
[Added:] Finally, there’s a big argument against time as a measure: People don’t spend much time on Google search, because it gives them what they want so fast, and they go away. Which is obviously good for them and for users. Of course, Google doesn’t drive many pageviews per visit either, but it’s so good people return again and again. So aggregate time is probably still high. But just as pageviews can be gamed, you can slow your users down unecessarily (or accidentally because your servers are too slow) and increase time spent. In the long run, this is going to be bad for you, but it would screw up a market that paid too much attention to time spent, just as much as BS pageview counts do now.
In summary, there’s no easy solution. There’s a big opportunity (though very tough job) for someone to come up with a meaningful metric that weighs a bunch of factors. But no matter what, there will come a time when no one who wants to be taken seriously will talk about their web traffic in terms of “pageviews” any more than one would brag about their “hits” today.

[Originally published at evhead.com.]

If it doesn’t change your views on how you manage your business, I have no idea what will.

Digital Free Tools Millenial Journalists Ought to Use More

Author cum journalist Allen Salkin at his writing desk. (Image credit: Wikimedia)
Author cum journalist Allen Salkin at his writing desk. (Image credit: Wikimedia)

There’s no reason a millenial journalist must stick to the old, inefficient ways of gathering information just like the baby-boomers journalists. Ren LaForme of Poynter Institute leaked some digital free tools we journos should use more often to let our work much easier than ever.

  1. Geofeedia.com: It enables us find given locations and grab digital information uploaded to the social media services from locations in question. You may also set a certain time bracket here. Cool, right
  2. Storehouse: The platform makes combining photos, text and videos more hassle-free.
  3. Timeline.js: It creates a timeline which doesn’t take you to be a geek like Edward Snowden.
  4. Storymap.js: The service lets you follow streams of information in certain locations.
  5. Snapchat: You’ll like it if you have to reach younger audience aged 15 or even under.
  6. Hyperlapse: Forget that notebook and pen. Use your smartphone with Hyperlapse installed on it.. Recording videos now becomes way easier. There’s algorithm to reduce shake as well.
  7. Tabula: The open source tool helps you extract precious data to a newsworthy document.
  8. Import.io: This tool can do you charm with the ability of turning information on the web into a chart as requested. Wonderfully executed, indeed.

Now that 2015 just began, it’s time to embrace these digital tools you’ve hardly used to impress your audience with speed and accuracy at an equal balance.

To Be a Good Entrepreneurship Reporter, Don't Be an Entrepreneur

So here’s the rule of thumb for entrepreneurship and business reporters out there: Don’t be the person you want to interview and write about. In other words, don’t be an entrepreneur or business person. This piece of advice sounds a little bit counter-intuitive as I thought it’d be much easier to understand the subject matters by being in their shoes, seeing things the way these people do so I can write better about them and their companies.

It turns out I’m wrong…

Reporters need to stay away from being an entrepreneur themselves. They can’t be a top-notch reporter and a great entrepreneur at the very same time. They have to relinquish one of the two.

That’s probably the gist of Sarah Lacy’s statements. The founder of media company Pando.com was asked whether being an entrepreneur herself changed her way of writing as a tech reporter. As we all know, Lacy has worked for almost 15 years writing about the tech industry, the people and the whole dynamics in it. She answered it bluntly,”I’m a way worse reporter now…”

Asking hard questions to other entrepreneurs as an entrepreneur cum reporter is relatively easy, claimed Lacy. Yet, she stated that what bothered her to do her best job she always wanted is the OVEREMPATHY on the answers. “So particularly when it comes to things I’ve gone through…like having the ousted board member (she might be reminded of Mike Arrington ousted from TechCrunch or?) or even like a cash crunch or hiring a sales guy that didn’t work out[…]”

She further said she didn’t write as much as she used to and she felt for these pitiful entrepreneurs. “Because I see every side to it and I feel for them,”explained the mother of two.

Thank God, I’m not an entrepreneur because if I have to be one, I would certainly lose my best job ever. And I would never trade being a writer to any job on earth. This is very much the best. At least for now.

A Journalist who Hardly Ever Types

keyboardI know a boy who works as a journalist. He hardly ever types. He just copies and pastes but he is such a gem to his boss because his articles get lots of hits, page views. “Screw quality!”, he once said to me. It’s only about how many page views you can make and please your boss as much and long as you can and things are going fine. Bonus keeps coming to you so why bother typing all day long like me? It’s pretty much the message he has tried to send across.

Of course, he is such an object to envy. He can enjoy the perks of being an employee without having to work hard that much. Never that much. While I have to work hard for it.

It doesn’t matter how he sucked at the quality, it never bothers the boss. As long as the site rank is stable and showing positive trend, he is safe. Good for him.

Bad for his future…

Jika Menulis Jadi Otomatis (Tren Robot Penulis Berita)

Berhati-hatilah dengan impian dan harapan Anda. Begitu kata pepatah dari negeri China. Jika Anda bekerja sebagai pewarta, dan Anda pernah mengeluhkan betapa beratnya beban kerja Anda selama ini (misalnya karena harus turun ke lapangan, mengejar narasumber, menjalani piket/ shift malam dan dini hari yang membuat jam tidur kacau balau) dan ingin proses membuat berita menjadi semudah mengayunkan tongkat sihir dan mengucapkan mantra, selamat! Impian Anda sudah terwujud.

Beberapa waktu lalu saya pernah membaca sebuah artikel tentang bagaimana menulis buku yang praktis, yang ternyata dilakukan dengan bantuan software tertentu. Saya anggap ‘inovasi’ itu sungguh absurd. Jikalau memang teknologi semacam itu akan marak nantinya, tak serta merta ia bisa menjamin kualitas buku yang dihasilkan. Tetap saja harus ada campur tangan manusia dalam prosesnya. Otomatisasi tidak akan bisa seratus persen menggeser peran penulis dan segenap intelejensia, pengalaman, gagasan dan emosi mereka yang khas dan tiada duanya. Inilah yang tidak akan bisa dimiliki oleh buku-buku yang dihasilkan dengan mekanisme otomatis semacam itu, terka saya. Intinya, software itu tetap tidak bisa menggantikan peran para penulis buku fiksi dan non-fiksi.

Itu pula yang terpikir saat saya mengetahui dua media di Amerika Serikat mulai mengadopsi teknologi dalam proses penyusunan berita mereka dengan lebih inovatif. Los Angeles Times dan Associated Press dikabarkan telah menerapkan robo-journalism dalam proses produksi artikel berita mereka.

Sejak Maret 2014 media Los Angeles Times, yang menjadi pers lokal bagi kota Los Angeles yang dikenal sebagai kota yang kerap digoyang gempa bumi, menghadirkan inovasi berupa Quakebot, sebuah software karya Ken Schwencke yang selain bekerja sebagai jurnalis juga adalah seorang programmer andal. Konon hanya diperlukan waktu 3 menit untuk menyusun sebuah artikel berita gempa, yang relatif lengkap dan memenuhi syarat jurnalistik 5W (who, why, what, where, when) dan 1H (how).

Sementara itu, Associated Press sejak bulan Agustus 2014 telah menggunakan software penulis berita Wordsmith buatan startup Automated Insights yang bertugas merangkum berbagai laporan finansial korporasi. Dengan Wordsmith, tugas pewarta AP jauh lebih ringan. Bila dikerjakan manual, pastinya akan lebih memakan waktu dan energi. Dalam kasus AP, teknologi diperlukan untuk efisiensi kerja dan penyajian berita.

Bagaimana proses software Wordsmith mengolah berita hingga siap saji? Pertama, data mentah dijaring dari pelanggan, penyedia data pihak ketiga dan repositori publik seperti jejaring sosial. Banyak sekali format data yang bisa dijaring sehingga akurasi dan kelengkapannya relatif tinggi. Selanjutnya, dilakukan telaah data yang terkumpul dengan bantuan matriks canggih pendeteksi tren menarik dan menempatkannya dalam konteks sejarah. Kemudian data akan diidentifikasi dan dibandingkan dengan data lain yang sudah ada sebelumnya. Tahap berikutnya yaitu penyusunan struktur dan format laporan. Di sini, algoritma akan menyusun kalimat-kalimat untuk menghasilkan jenis format berita yang dikehendaki, misalnya narasi panjang, artikel pendek, visualisasi, tweet, berita dan sebagainya. Akhirnya, laporan tadi siap dipublikasikan secara real time via API, Twitter, email, laman web dan perangkat digital. Tugas editor hanya memberikan polesan akhir agar artikel tampak natural saat dibaca.

Kalau begitu mudah membuat berita sekarang, apakah para jurnalis tidak lagi dibutuhkan di masa datang? Editor pelaksana berita bisnis Associated Press Lou Ferrara tidak sepakat. Ia beropini bahwa robo-journalists ini justru memberikan banyak jurnalis manusia untuk melepaskan beban pemberitaaan yang simpel untuk lebih berfokus pada penyusunan berita-berita yang lebih mendalam. Argumen Ferrara menurut hemat saya memang cukup beralasan. Alih-alih membuat jurnalis kehilangan pekerjaan, inovasi robo-journalists justru harus dianggap sebagai pembebas dari rutinitas menulis berita yang membosankan dan itu-itu saja. Jurnalis tampaknya memang makin didesak untuk bisa berpikir dan menulis dengan sudut pandang yang khas dan pembahasan yang lebih analitis karena inilah yang tidak bisa dilakukan robot-robot itu!
Mengamini pernyataan Ferrara, Ken Schwencke dari LA Times juga menandaskan bahwa robo-journalists hanya melengkapi keberadaan human-journalists. Justru inovasi ini akan “membuat pekerjaan semua orang lebih menarik”, ujarnya.

CEO Automated Insights Robbie Allen juga memberikan pernyataan serupa, bahwa software buatannya bukan dirancang sebagai pengganti jurnalis manusia. Allen menambahkan kelebihan robo-journalists hanya ada pada ketepatan dan kecepatan pengolahan data. Sementara gaya bahasa, gaya penulisan dan sebagainya cuma bisa dihasilkan oleh human-journalists. Tugas robo-journalists jelas hanya menyajikan data agar lebih cepat dan layak baca. Titik.

Karena itu, jika Anda seorang pewarta yang setiap hari hanya bekerja untuk menyalin tempel artikel berita atau cuma menyadur tanpa membubuhkan kepribadian Anda di dalamnya, rasanya Anda harus siap-siap ditelan persaingan oleh robo-journalists ini.

Saya teringat dengan kata-kata jurnalis teknologi AS Kara Swisher, bahwa banyak jurnalis menyajikan berita dengan cara yang membosankan pembaca. Besar kemungkinan kemunculan robo-journalists akan memberangus jurnalis-jurnalis semacam ini, karena seberapapun cepat otak mereka bekerja dan jari jemari mereka mengetik, tetap saja tak akan bisa mengalahkan software-software seperti Wordsmith atau Quakebot. Maksudnya membosankan mungkin adalah penyajian yang mengikuti pola atau template tertentu, yang terus menerus berulang dan tak berubah. Alur cerita dalam berita juga relatif mudah ditebak. “Setelah itu, pasti membahas ini, ah basi,” begitu gumam pembaca. Tidak heran mereka juga bekerja seperti robot! Pastilah penyajiannya lebih kaku.

Dan satu poin yang menjadi perhatian bagi mereka yang mengaku jurnalis – bila mereka tak ingin tersingkir – adalah perhatian yang harusnya makin besar untuk membangun pemikiran sendiri dan tidak segan untuk menunjukkan kepribadiannya. Elemen kepribadian ini menjadi sorotan terutama jika Anda bekerja sebagai jurnalis online atau blogger. Tanpa kepribadian yang unik, karya-karya Anda akan kurang menarik minat pembaca. Bahkan jika kepribadian itu sangat sarkastis, atau emosional sekalipun, jangan ragu untuk menampilkannya dalam tulisan Anda. Karena kepribadian inilah yang sampai kiamat pun tidak akan bisa dimiliki oleh robo-journalists yang secanggih apapun. Contohnya, kata Swisher, adalah para jurnalis cum blogger teknologi di TechCrunch.com pasca keluarnya Michael Arrington, Sarah Lacy cs. Meski blogger-blogger TechCrunch itu kerap diremehkan dengan alasan memiliki bias atau sikap kurang objektif serta kurang piawai menggunakan prinsip jurnalisme dalam penulisan konten mereka, toh orang-orang itu sanggup menunjukkan kepribadian mereka yang menarik via jejaring sosial dan konten-konten yang mereka tampilkan. Tentu saja kata “menarik” di sini bersifat nisbi. Namun, yang patut digarisbawahi adalah bahwa kepribadian mereka menjadi salah satu faktor daya jual atau selling point yang turut mengungkit pamor konten berita yang disusun.

Jadi apakah masih ingin menjadi wartawan biasa-biasa saja? Itu terserah Anda. Namun alangkah baiknya bila mau berubah sebelum binasa.