Listening to news: a real human reading vs. a robot/AI

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about subscribing to the New Yorker (digital version) is that a lot of the major feature articles are also read by a reader. This means that while I am multitasking, whether that is working out (my favorite), showering, or cleaning around the house, I can still “read” these stories. The New Yorker has always been one of my favorite publications because I like that they always go in-depth on something random that you wouldn’t immediately think to read about (a few recent long-form titles: “The Exhausting History of Fatigue;” “The Dirty Secrets of a Smear Campaign,” and even the profile “The Button-Pushing Impresario of Balenciaga.” It’s not always as depressing as breaking news that you get via CNN or NPR. It’s not always in your face about how awful this country is the way The New York Times always seems to feel, at least on the front page.

So I got excited when I started scrolling through the Wall Street Journal app today and realized that so many of the articles had audio. I thought, wow, this is a big win! Now I can also get major headlines read to me from a reputable source. The unfortunate part…. was that it wasn’t a real human reading the stories. Given the volume of articles, it made sense that it would be some robot reader. It would take a lot of time and resources (MONEY) to have a real person read all these stories to this level. The robot readers mispronounced endless “foreign” names and random acronyms, and the articles weren’t anywhere as enjoyable to listen to as the New Yorker‘s, for obvious reasons given who (or what, in this case) was doing the reading. Sometimes, the monotone was so grating to listen to that I just went back to the actual written article and read it myself. Oh, well. You have to take what you can get.

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