Journalism In Age Of Artificial Intelligence


News businesses around the world have been in the doldrums for long now. The rise of digital media had, until recently, drastically altered the media industry, reducing demand for print newspaper and impacting advertising revenue, the lifeline of news organisations, leaving many news outlets struggling financially. The COVID-19 pandemic, which accelerated the shift in consumer behaviour, made the matter even worse. This financial pressure has forced many companies to reduce their workforce as a means to cut costs. 

And now, one new force is further accelerating the shift: rise of generative AI. As it makes its way into journalism toolkit, experts are wondering how this revolutionary technology will alter the industry. Needless to say, articulation is one of the cornerstones of effective journalism.  As AI gets increasingly eloquent in writing, many worry that it will obviate the need to hone skills indispensable to a good writer. The scope of the problem became evident when Hollywood actors and writers last year unionised and went on strike, demanding higher royalties, mandatory staffing of TV writing rooms and safeguards to their jobs from the use of AI. Some even fear that it could completely take over the role of journalists and set off the wave of layoffs in media houses. At the same time, there is also a growing consensus that AI is a force for good, and that instead of becoming a threat, it will be a journalists’ handy tool needed to excel in the profession.  

In-depth reporting

AI technologies are reshaping how news is gathered, produced, and distributed, impacting every aspect of the industry. In what follows, we’ll discuss various ways how the technology is revolutionising the industry as well as its pitfalls, concerns and ways forward to address them. First is automation of news. AI tools can automatically generate news stories for topics like sports results, financial updates, and weather reports, among many others, with increasing speed and accuracy, freeing up journalists’ time to focus more on in-depth reporting and investigative stories.

Second is data journalism. AI excels in handling large datasets, enabling journalists to uncover patterns and stories that would be difficult to detect manually. 

This capability enhances investigative journalism, allowing reporters to reveal trends and anomalies in fields like politics, economies, and social issues. Third is customisation of content. AI algorithms help media outlets tailor content to the preferences of individual readers, potentially increasing engagement. Fourth is verification and fact-checking. AI tools help quickly verify and check the authenticity of images and videos, which is particularly valuable in an era of fake news and misinformation. Despite this, the technology also contributes to the problem by enabling the creation of deep fakes and other forms of deceptive media.

However, this also raises concerns about creating filter bubbles and eco chambers, where users are only exposed to news that reinforces their existing beliefs. Studies have shown that, when a person is constantly bombarded with one-sided content falsely claiming victimhood or injustice, for example, it can effectively radicalise him/her, leading to extremism and violence. And many incidents have repeatedly corroborated this fact. 

There are also a host of issues raised by AI. First, ethical and bias concerns. AI system can inadvertently perpetuate biases present in their training data, affecting how stories are told and perceived, leading to concerns about fairness and impartiality in automated content. Second is job displacement. 

While AI can enhance the capabilities of journalists, there is also fear about automation displacing jobs in the industry, particularly in roles focused on routine content publication. Third is deep fakes and misinformation. The ability of AI to create realistic fake audio and video poses significant challenges for maintaining trust and authenticity in reporting.

So, while AI presents powerful tools for enhancing journalistic practices, it necessitates careful consideration regarding standards, transparency, and maintaining the human judgment essential to quality journalism. Experts unanimously agree that no matter how better AI gets, it is unlikely to replace flesh-and-blood journalist in the foreseeable future.  

Journalism often requires a deep understanding of context, nuance, and ethical considerations, which AI lacks. Decisions about what stories to pursue, how to frame sensitive issues and how to ethically report on people and events still rely heavily on human judgment.

AI can mimic certain types of writing, but it’s only human who can create stories that resonate with readers. The human connection in storytelling is vital for engaging an audience and building trust, which is fundamental to effective journalism. The work of journalists is about creative storytelling, about digging the surface to excavate the truth, about critical thinking and impartial judgment, and about holding the wrongdoers accountable. And AI is nowhere near outperforming real journalists in these domains. 

Human touch

In conclusion, AI will transform journalism, automating some tasks and enhancing others, but the core of journalism – providing insightful, thoughtful, and ethically sound reporting – will still require human touch. AI will be more of a tool for journalists rather than a replacement. That said, if a person who is non-learning, non-adaptive to the revolution brought about by AI, s/he is going to have a challenging career. To stay relevant and competitive in this AI-driven fast-paced world, acquainting with the latest technology is of paramount importance.  

AI requires careful implementation and management to ensure that it supplements rather than undermines the journalistic values of accuracy, accountability, and ethical reporting. As the technology matures, news organisations will need to navigate these opportunities and challenges carefully, developing strategies that leverage the strengths of AI while mitigating its risks. This includes training journalists to work effectively with new technologies, maintaining stringent editorial oversight, and fostering open dialogues about the role of AI in journalism.

(Basyal works as a journalist at The Rising Nepal)

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