Thursday, April 18, 2024

AI in Journalism: What Makes a Good Story?

By Sarah Madison Repollo | February 15, 2024

In the heart of student activities, nestled deep in Oriental Hall, the campus journalists flutter about to beat their weekly deadlines. Papers lay strewn across the room’s crowded desks, various scribbles on a whiteboard depict the week’s hectic schedule, and the staff themselves are a staple of the office, forever glued to the ancient sofa bed engaging in intense conversation. Various topics find their fancy today, ranging from video bloopers to tasks at hand, and most especially, hot topics in the world of journalism—one such head-turner being the recent takeover of AI. 

From their tight office and to the spacious halls of the University of Santo Tomas (UST), the journalists discussed the dawn of AI in the 25th Inkblots, an annual national campus journalism fellowship hosted by the UST’s student paper, held last January. 

With the theme, “Innovating Campus Journalism in the Age of AI,” young campus journalists from across the country were reminded head-on of the rapid evolution journalism has undergone and continues to undergo in the present day. No matter the form that it has taken, whether worn down books, flimsy newspaper sheets, intense broadcast media, or the more recent online format articles, humans have always been an irreplaceable pillar in the spread of information—until now. 

AI in Journalism and its Effects

AI, short for artificial intelligence, simulates human thought processes through complex software and subsequently applies it to fields such as medicine, education, and even journalism. 

Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder, made a statement regarding AI, explaining that it “has the power to create new ideas, products, and services that will make our lives easier, more productive, and more creative.” These talents extend beyond simple news writing, aiding in fact-checking, cost reduction, and even reporting—with GMA’s “Marco & Maia” being living proof of this. The AI sportscasters’ reveal sparked countless debates, with many citizens up in arms about one of the first major introductions of artificial intelligence into Philippine media. 

Despite the bad rep it gets, AI has its fair share of advantages when it comes to journalism. It can increase data accuracy, transcribe in place of humans, and even take over some aspects of reporting and writing for employees. But, at the end of the day, it is still a tool—one that could quickly become a double-sided weapon. With heavier reliance on AI, this tool has made way for biased reporting, job losses, and a lack of soul in the stories made. 

The Heart of Storytelling

Empathy is the ability to see things from another’s perspective and understand them wholeheartedly. 

In journalism, empathy is a must to gain people’s attention and have the writing resonate with them—it’s how an outside audience can be moved by stories that aren’t their own. Human journalists have that unique ability to evoke empathy through their storytelling—using their humanity to bring out emotions that AI cannot fully comprehend. 

If asked to write a report on the less fortunate, AI would come up with a comprehensive news article filled with accurate statistics on poverty rates. But with people behind the writing, the subjects would become more than numbers, but real humans—with feelings and dreams like any other being. Kara David, a well-known journalist, spoke about this during the 25th Inkblots. She mentioned a GMA production, “Sa Mata ni Ekang,” a video documentary that tackled the lives of the poor, specifically seen through the eyes of a young child. This video tapped into the nuances of the situation, getting deep into the lives of people—a complete contrast to the surface-level digging AI would have done for a report. Instead of numbers, the documentary provided legitimate food for thought to the audience.

If asked to draft an editorial, AI could list all the stances on issues the internet could offer, but it would lack what makes an ideal opinion piece—an actual, personal opinion. It could give all sides of the argument that the internet has seen, but fail to provide an actual personal belief, unless instructed by a human. 

AI could produce high-quality, realistic images if asked to dabble in photojournalism. But in the end, the photos would only be a product of the human behind the screen, serving details to the artificial intelligence tool—AI cannot function without the human mind as the working power behind it. 

The Future of Storytelling

It is understandable how some journalists feel uncertain regarding AI’s current developments. After all, the tool is almost as human-like as it gets. However, people have always been able to adapt to the times, and in turn, previous forms of storytelling have never truly left. 

When newspapers became widespread, books didn’t fade out.

When televisions entered the scene, written news stayed.

When phones were created, physical papers didn’t disappear.

As AI has taken over, humans are still needed to control it.

Each new era of journalism has required adaptation to survive, but not once have humans been left out of this long and arduous journey. 

As young journalists continue to navigate the current world, one riddled with fake news and misinformation, there is a growing need to join hands with AI in continuing to deliver optimal news. But the real challenge now lies in every storyteller’s ability to uphold the ethical use of artificial intelligence while coming up with timely, relevant, and interesting narratives. Now it is this challenge that the campus journalists are actively taking on in their cooped-up office, on their ancient sofa bed.

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