According to this Inquirer story,Thomson Financial has been using computers to generate some stories since March.
Says Nick Farrell: "Apparently the computer can turn around an earnings story within 0.3
seconds of the company making results public. Of course that sounds
fast but since hacks usually get reports a few days in advance, writing
it for an embargoed deadline and pressing "send" is just as fast.
But hacks need not worry too much. The software just goes through press
releases and reports and turns them into newspeak.A computer cannot
ring people up and ask them searching questions.
If applied to the IT press, it will kill off all those who cut and paste press releases and stick their byline on the top."
Judging by the anonymous commenter here, perhaps VNU have also been using computers to write copy too.
More seriously, one does wonder if there is a contradiction at the heart of this approach. Thompson Financial claim it means it gives their real journalists "time to think" – and presumably ask the searching questions alluded to by Nick Farrell – however, most publishers are intent on cutting down editorial resources – which means that the journalists remaining are expected to cover ever wider fields – with presumably an even smaller understanding of what they are expected to write about – what’s the point of having more time to think and ask searching questions if you don’t know what searching questions to ask in the first place?