By Ria Askin | October 12, 2023
This essay won first place in the Ireneo & Asuncion Maslog Essay-Writing Contest, held on Aug. 23
A massive laying-off of editors, content, feature, and news writers from media corporations across the United States in April and May this year preceded what has become the greatest untouchable foe of journalists. Vice Media, which has been most notable for its niche reporting on narcotics and investigative journalism, has laid off a hundred of its staffers in Northern America and the Asia Pacific. Their reasoning was for a “company restructuring.”
Within weeks, reports have simultaneously come out about entire editorial departments in Vox and Paper Magazine, among others, clearing out their desks from giant media agencies. The owner of Fox News Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp was even earlier to give layoffs, hinting the move would start in February. The companies’ rationale for such abrupt downsizing was that budget cuts had to be made due to losses in advertising revenue.
Skeptics in the media industry, however, see that these news and media corporations’ motive is to lean toward artificial intelligence to produce content—and perhaps ultimately replace human writers.
Just less than a year after Open AI’s Chat GPT was launched in October 2022, exposés regarding AI-generated write-ups from renowned news outlets were already sprouting. The top technology news website in the US, CNET, was caught and called out on Twitter by Gael Breton, a marketing executive and the co-founder of AuthorityHacker, for publishing feature-length articles that were produced by artificial intelligence technology. Their editor responded by saying it was just “a mere experiment.”
Similarly, the media giant News Corp has made 3,000 news stories per week in Australia all written by AI. These reports were found to be done by generative AI due to their inaccuracies in data.
The huge cutbacks in the media workforce undoubtedly show that media conglomerates do not denounce the power of AI, thinking they could live off and exponentially profit off of it since there are only a few—or zero—human employees to pay for. This is a problematic phenomenon.
Paul Farhi of The Washington Post reported that artificial intelligence, beyond its flawed reporting, raises “practical and ethical questions” firstly with plagiarism. A column authored by a certain Petra was discovered to be “containing phrases lifted from a column” originally written by journalist Alex Kantrowitz, which was just published two days prior.
Another characteristic of AI that poses a disservice in the pursuit of providing quality journalism for the common good is that AI-generated content is “generally indistinguishable from the human-produced kind.”
In 2013, a study at the University of Oxford in the United States showed that 47 percent of human jobs will potentially vanish in 20 years. Another study that compliments that prediction is a 2023 Golden Sachs finding indicating a “significant disruption in the job market” mainly brought about by artificial intelligence tools. About 300 million full-time positions in the workforce are anticipated to be affected.
Meanwhile, a career in the media industry leads the list of jobs that are at the highest risk for replacement by artificial intelligence.
Without invalidating these studies’ forecasts and empirical data, conversational robots or chatbots can never replace the work of a journalist. Copies written by AI have now broadly and openly circulated across multiple media platforms, but the rampant criticism about its inaccuracies is morally unacceptable, for it supports misinformation. When this writing style propels, it is a moral obligation for a journalist to tear it, for it dishonors democracy.
More than just the obligation of a reporter to uphold truth-telling, the writing style is an essential element in journalistic writing. A write-up is not just a presentation of facts and data, but storytelling. These AI tools cannot do the legwork, face interviews, and tell the candid or the local observations about humans just being humans, frolicking, or whatnot.
Move your reader emotionally. Provoke him. Farhi added that bot-produced writings are full of clichés, “lacking humor or sass, or anything resembling emotions, or idiosyncrasies.” Would you want to stick around and read a long-form article if it doesn’t speak to you?