The Byrne Blog

John Byrne Communicating About Communications

Is this another sign of the coming apocalypse?  Hands, please.  How many people knew that the New York Times was publishing a haiku blog on Tumblr, and that the snippets of Japanese-style poetry are generated by a robot?

Yep, that’s what I thought.  Me neither.  But more terrifying is that it’s been doing this for more than a year!  How could I have missed this??!!  I’m a card-carrying subscriber to the New York Times for years.  Print and digital.  I’ve told my wife that the not inconsiderable annual subscription should be characterized as a charitable deduction, as part of my own personal obligation to try to save the U.S. newspaper industry from collapsing into oblivion.

Now, um, I’m not so sure.  Because the true sign of the end of the world as we know it is this: the New York Times is still publishing this ridiculous blog daily and seemingly has no plans to discontinue its inanity.

Here’s just one example of a Times haiku:

It was the kind of
hair that you don’t have to do
anything to it.

Or, how about this gem:

Was he wishing he’d
ordered the hotcakes instead
of the burrito.

This is from a newspaper that has won 112 Pultizer Prizes in nearly 100 years.  That’s more than any other newspaper, anywhere.  So, I ask seriously:  This is the best we get from the Times?  Shouldn’t they know better over there?  When people talk (sometimes incessantly) about there being too much content in the world, this is the top example.  Buzzfeed now ain’t got nothing on the New York Times.

I think the worst part about this whole thing, speaking from the perspective of a journalist/writer/editor/content marketer/creative/etc., etc. is that these haiku are being created automatically by an algorithm.  Sure, a human wrote the original words in a sentence that has already been published in the Times in a narrative format, and another human reviews the little math equation’s work to make sure it might make some semblance of sense.  But there is no originality here or any creative spark that has come from the firing of any human synapse.  That lack of human authenticity in creating what is an old and often mystically beautiful art form is deeply depressing.

What’s next for the New York Times?  The proverbial typewriters and monkeys?  Maybe one day they’ll be writing front page stories just by punching random keys, right?

Here’s the one from yesterday, September 11:

Talking to people
you’ve just met can feel awkward
enough already.

Hmmm.  Enough already.  Couldn’t have said it better myself.

What do you think?  Is this cool?  Or really strange?  Perhaps just a colossal waste of perfectly good code?  Let me know in the comments.


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