AI and Journalism: Will this be the next obstacle in the path of journalists?

by Mariam Maroof

With technology advancing at a rapid pace, it comes as no surprise that these advancements could take a turn for the good, as well as for the worst. 

Artificial intelligence is one such tech product that has been the talk of the town for a number of years. As the name suggests, it is a resource that mirrors human intelligence through machines. While created by people no different than you and me, artificial intelligence has slowly allowed several tasks to be automated – to such an extent that these tasks may never require an actual human to oversee it anymore.

While these AI tools may free up more time for us, they are a cause of concern for some. From data visualization tools that create high-quality, detailed graphics, to fact-checking tools and textual content production, AI is slowly taking over various different facets of our lives. This leaves us with an important question: Will AI replace the working journalist?

Journalism may have been and continues to be a noble profession, but it has come with its fair share of obstacles, some of which exist even today. With As journalists, the last thing we need is to have automated tools that take our very jobs away from us. But are journalists overthinking AI and its offerings or is there more to it than what meets the eye?

As per a report by The Sydney Morning Herald, AI tools are certainly changing the landscape of journalism, as they are for many other fields – however, AI can merely simplify journalism as we know it. It cannot replace the human element that is the barebones of journalism. It cannot relay human emotion, or bring a sense of familiarity to a story, it cannot deliver several other elements that make human-led journalism, well, journalism.

According to Dr Harry Browne, Senior Lecturer of Journalism at TU Dublin, “AI will not take over, because that suggests an element of control. There are clearly journalistic tasks that AI can perform with some ease (though not without some error), and those will increasingly be performed by the tech. In my limited experience of getting ChatGPT to write stories, the copy has been extremely dry and boring: the tech is not good at finding emotive and aesthetically pleasing angles and approaches to stories.” 

Keeping this in mind, it is also important to understand that AI is a man-made system that works according to the instructions that are fed into it. What does this mean? 
Well, it basically leaves some room for errors and misunderstood commands. For example, the images below are nothing as I envisioned them to be. Into a visualizer tool, I entered the words ‘robot journalist,’ ‘AI journalist’ and ‘artificial intelligence journalist’ respectively.

It goes without saying, the tool did a pretty awful job. Had this been a graphic designer, the result would be more accurate and not a complete waste of time either!

This gets you wondering – what are AI tools useful for then anyway? AI can go a long way in enhancing journalism by automating miniscule tasks and allowing us to make more time for things that actually matter. You can enter commands and have AI monitor social media platforms looking for important news events or identifying trends online. For those involved in data journalism, it allows for a quicker and more efficient way of analysing massive amounts of data, creating new learnings and uncovering new insights. Transcription software aid in quick transcriptions which in most cases are accurate – cutting the time journalists put into this by half.

Human journalists continue to play a crucial role in the field of journalism by creating accurate, informative, and timely news stories that express more than what AI could. AI tools, on the other hand will continue to enhance journalism and assist journalists!

In conclusion, I leave you with a question to ponder upon: How much of this article do you think I have produced with the help of AI? Let me know!

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