Artificial intelligence and journalism: who wins and who loses in the newsrooms?

A clean-cut figure appears on the screen to share breaking news. Everything is normal. Except that we are faced with an avatar generated by artificial intelligence (AI), with its own voice and capable of telling current events in different languages. Then amazement and effervescence erupt on social networks. Lisa, from Odisha TV, in India; Jia Jia, from XinhuaNewsin China, Nat, in Formula Groupfrom Mexico, or Clara, from Channel 44 of the University of Guadalajara, are some examples.

Nat, the first AI-generated presenter in Latin America.

And while consumers of journalistic content marvel, journalists become anxious and wonder if eventually robots and software of AI will end up displacing them, or even hindering young journalists looking for an opportunity in the media.

As in other industries, there is also fear in the media about possible waves of layoffs. And the question is natural: who wins and who loses with AI in newspaper and news newsrooms?

Journalist robots and AI tools

Although AI was already common in software or cell phone applications, increased its popularity in 2023 with the appearance of the ChatGPT conversational robot, developed by the company OpenAI.

In journalism, it has gained ground since the newspaper Los Angeles Times I use the software Quakebot to create stories about seismic movements. One reason is that it allows efficiency and savings in time and costs, thanks to the automation of routine activities in the news content production process, such as transcribing audios, writing short texts, summaries or sending newsletters, in addition to increasing the potential for personalized distribution and audience analysis.

Journalist robots are already among us, like Gabriele, used by the EFE agency. And they write with a syntax, coherence, and presentation of ideas that some experienced writers would envy. Other tools, such as Tableau, allow you to organize and analyze large databases in a short time. These were very useful in reports such as the Pandora Papers.

However, these tools have a cost and are available on platforms outside of journalism companies. For this reason, more and more agencies or media are creating their own solutions based on AI. For example, the automated publication of cyclical information, such as weather forecasts (Jasper, the United States), sports results (Soccerbot, from Yonhap News in Korea or Heliograf in Washington Post), and statistical data (Ludwig, in Dagens Nyheter from Sweden). Bloomberg, Forbes, Associated Press wave BBC They have also incorporated AI into their processes.

Personally, journalists are already exploring the use of ChatGPT, which is more of a linguistic model. But you have to be careful with its use. The manual of Artificial intelligence for journalistspublished by Prodigioso Volcán, specifies that ChatGPT “cannot verify a source in real time, doubt information, provide an interpretive approach or speak with people who provide different perspectives.”

Who should worry about the likely waves of layoffs?

Since before AI became popular, newspaper companies have already resorted to cost and payroll cuts in the face of the crisis they are suffering due to the change in business models. The Inter American Press Association documented that, in Mexico, media such as TV Azteca, Grupo Expansión, Editorial Travesías, Crónica and Record announced layoffs, salary cuts or temporary suspensions of circulation. In Brazil, at least 21 regional media outlets did the same.

Taking into account the impact of AI in the process of constructing journalistic content, it appears that those who work in links that do not provide added value will be susceptible to being fired.

cameramen, community managersweb editors or television booth and studio staff, such as switchersaudio operators, floor managers or titrators, could be replaced by automated tools.

What is the point of covering a press conference in person if AI generates the text from the transmission? Why waste time on transcriptions? Why allocate personnel to the publication of sports results or financial indicators, if AI can do it for us?

Even reporters dedicated to journalism or news anchors who limit themselves to reading in a teleprompter They could be expendable. If the journalist focuses on assembling elementary pieces or on information only for sight or hearing, then “he can be replaced both by robots and by citizen journalists who have not gone through a university and who obey a primary instinct for news”, as reported by the Ethics Office of the Gabo Foundation.

Instead of fear, training

Although the outlook seems unflattering, AI tools will also allow investigative journalists to save time and dedicate it to more complex issues for the construction of exclusive content.

Those who show skills to add depth and acuity to the content will survive in this profession: “Journalism that interprets, analyzes and stimulates citizen participation. This journalism cannot be done by robots or citizen journalists.”

Authors like Juan Luis Manfredi and María José Ufarte are optimistic. They believe that with the labor transformation brought about by AI, we can see the emergence of new journalistic genres and positions that we cannot even imagine today. Added to this is that human participation, the journalistic nose and the inscrutable gaze of the editor will always be intrinsic elements of this profession.

Therefore, training is imperative. Although some groups have generated guides aimed at journalists, universities and institutions must build more and better academic offerings that not only focus on the technical aspect of AI, but also on ethical reflection on its use in journalism. For example, the criteria for using summaries or images generated with these tools and their filters should be discussed; as well as establishing guidelines so that news presenters developed through this technology do not reproduce gender stereotypes, as well as incorporating AI into data verification processes (considerations that we will address in other articles).

We are on time, because beyond romanticism or dystopias, we still do not know the maximum potential of these tools. We have not yet witnessed its true explosion.

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