Sky News has been testing the limits of artificial intelligence to see what impact it could have on the future of journalism.
Our experiments with computers to research, write and edit news have given us mixed results – From telling plausible stories about affordable housing to the odd claim that “spitting milk helps the environment.”
But that’s the limit of technology now — what about the future?
Professor Charlie Beckett manages JournalismAI, a London School of Economics initiative to help newsrooms use AI responsibly.
While it has been running since 2019, its role has never been clearer than it is today, as editors and reporters alike come to grasp the power of information generative artificial intelligence.
“A lot of newsrooms are thinking about what they might do with this technology,” but all are aware of the pitfalls, he said.from a The Irish Times’ AI-generated hoax columnfrom CNET finding mistakes in stories written by artificial intelligence, it is clear that it is not ready to replace real reporters.
Prof Beckett said: “If you make a small mistake on Sky News, people will laugh at you, it’s everywhere on social media – and the chances of an AI doing that are very high.”
“If we all get lazy and expect GPT to write our stories and screenplays and so on, things could get worse.”
But just as cellphones and Google search transformed journalism, AI seems destined to have an equally profound impact.
The end result, Professor Beckett argues, will be a smaller newsroom – where AI could take over the jobs of those who find interviews, write scripts for anchors and some write stories for online audiences.
“There will be new jobs where people have to edit algorithms, review automation, go through the data sets you give them — hybrid jobs that require technology as well as editors,” he said.
“The money you save in terms of efficiency can go directly to making people do better human journalism — getting journalists to interview people more, to report more imaginative, empathetic, or maybe more assertive. Story, you do it as well as a machine does.”
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Lecturers are grappling with how to prepare journalists for potential AI-driven newsrooms
At the University of Kent’s Center for Journalism, lecturers are grappling with how to prepare the next generation of journalists for the newsrooms of the future that may be powered by artificial intelligence.
Professor Ian Reeves said that while AI “has a legitimate and ethical use in newsrooms”, it is also “fully capable of spitting out utter nonsense with a straight face”.
“We’ve noticed in some of the journalism assignments we give students that they’re trying to use this technology to deliver news content — and in some cases, the results are pretty hilarious,” he said.
“In an article about The Sun and its coverage of an event, the chatbot couldn’t tell the difference between the paper and Mars in the sky.
“[So] We also tried to demonstrate to them that the stakes of relying on it to produce meaningful content are fairly high. “
The usefulness of generative AI lies in the fundamental foundations of journalism
Like Professor Beckett, Professor Reeves believes that the usefulness of generative AI for a reporter or editor lies in some of the more mundane, fundamental groundwork of journalism.
Google is often the first port of call for researching unfamiliar topics – it may be replaced by ChatGPT.
Professor Reeves said AI “can’t do it, and I don’t think it will ever do it”, which is the “really basic task of journalism”, which is talking to real people about real events, witnessing and holding power accountable. .
These skills will become even more important if journalists are to survive in the age of artificial intelligence.
“It’s about trust and credibility,” he said. “The best journalists, the ones who make a difference, are the ones who talk to people about how things affect their real lives, who witness events. People who have the ability to find out and expose what the powerful don’t want was revealed.
“That’s not really something AI can do.
“The jobs that AI will do are content farm type jobs that don’t really involve those skills, and it’s debatable whether it’s ever been real journalism — churning out stuff you see elsewhere, not A process that requires interaction with anyone else.
“AI will do this very well, and publishers will see the business sense of getting a platform to do it rather than hiring people to do it.”
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As for those who read, watch and listen to content produced by newsrooms: “Personalizing and reformatting content—young people want news in the format, tone, style and size and on the platforms they want—they Don’t want to watch a three minute movie where you make it if they’re only 20 seconds long.
“The reformatting and customization of content, like translating it into different languages, give me a simple version or an interpreted version of the project, that’s going to be a big area over time.
“My sci-fi vision for this is a kind of RoboCop reporter with all these tools to help them become more efficient, stronger and able to research better, and then a content creation thing that turns their original work into a Make it into various iterations.
“Then your audience is sitting at home eating breakfast and watching Sky News, and they can get in the car and continue playing select stories they’re interested in in audio form.
“Then they come home from get off work at night and just want to have a good read of a long novel, and it all happens semi-automatically, and people have a Spotify-like ability to shape the content they get.”