Last year, journalists had fun asking the all-new AI chatbot ChatGPT to write their columns, with most concluding that the bot wasn’t good enough to take their jobs. Again.
But many commentators believe journalism is on the cusp of a revolution where mastering the algorithms and AI tools that generate content will be a key battleground.
Tech news site CNET may have heralded the way forward when it quietly deployed an AI program last year to write some of its lists.
It was then forced to post several corrections after another news site noticed that the bot had made errors, some of them serious.
But CNET’s parent company later announced job cuts that included editorial staff – although executives denied AI was behind the layoffs.
German publishing giant Axel Springer, owner of Politico and German tabloid Bild, among others, was less timid.
“Artificial intelligence has the potential to make independent journalism better than it has ever been – or simply replace it,” group boss Mathias Doepfner told staff last month.
Hailing bots like ChatGPT as a “revolution” for the industry, he announced a restructuring that would lead to “significant reductions” in production and proofreading.
Both companies are making AI a tool to support journalists and can highlight recent developments in the industry.
– ‘Glorified word processing’ –
Over the past decade, media organizations have increasingly used automation for routine tasks such as finding patterns in economic data or publishing company earnings reports.
Outlets present online are obsessed with “search engine optimization”, which is the use of keywords in a title to be favored by Google or Facebook algorithms and get a story seen by the most of eyeballs.
And some have developed their own algorithms to see which stories play best with their audience and allow them to better target content and advertising — the same tools that have turned Google and Facebook into global behemoths.
Alex Connock, author of “Media Management and Artificial Intelligence,” says mastering these AI tools will help decide which media companies will survive and which will fail in the years to come.
And the use of content creation tools will see some people lose their jobs, he said, but not in analytical or high-end reporting.
“In the specific case of the more mechanistic end of journalism — sports reporting, financial results — I think AI tools are replacing, and likely will increasingly replace, human delivery,” he said.
Not all analysts agree on this point.
Mike Wooldridge of the University of Oxford thinks ChatGPT, for example, is more like a “glorified word processor” and journalists shouldn’t worry.
“This technology will replace journalists in the same way that spreadsheets have replaced mathematicians – in other words, I don’t think it will,” he said at a recent event. by the Science Media Center.
He nevertheless suggested that mundane tasks could be replaced – putting him on the same page as Connock.
– ‘Test the robots’ –
French journalists Jean Rognetta and Maurice de Rambuteau dig deeper into the question of how ready AI is to take over from journalists.
They publish a newsletter called “Qant” written and illustrated using AI tools.
Last month, they presented a 250-page report by AI detailing key trends from the CES tech show in Las Vegas.
Rognetta said they wanted to “test the robots, push them to the limit”.
They quickly found the limit.
The AI struggled to identify major trends at CES and couldn’t produce a journalist-worthy summary. He also stole wholesale from Wikipedia.
The authors found that they had to constantly intervene to keep the process on track. Thus, while the programs saved time, they were not yet able to replace real journalists.
Journalists are “suffering from the big tech replacement syndrome, but I don’t believe in it,” Rognetta said.
“Robots alone are simply not capable of producing stories. There is still a part of journalistic work that cannot be delegated.”