Generative AI is making its way into the media and hackers are concerned. Except, of course, your loyal correspondents at TNW, since automated output cannot compare to our flair and original reporting (at least, that’s what I tell my overlords).
Other journalists, however, are not so blessed. Last week, the owner of Britain’s Daily Mirror and the Express became the latest media mogul to add bots to the newsroom.
The publisher, Reach, has several AI-written articles on the local news site In Your Area. According to Reach CEO Jim Mullen, they include a list of “7 things to do for visitors to show off Newport.”
“That is responsible use of AI.
Unsurprisingly, Mullen told human journalists not to worry. He said his own reporters had suggested using the AI system — called Scribe — and that the tool would allow them to focus on things they want to do.
“It was based on content from our journalists and the decision to run it was made by the editor: that’s responsible use of AI,” added Mullen.
However, his words are unlikely to allay his employees’ concerns. Reach, owner of hundreds of national, local and online publications, was already planning a massive job cut.
The company is far from the only media brand to bring AI to the pressroom. This is how other outlets are experimenting with automation.
The associated press
One of the first exponents of AI in news coverage was the Associated Press (AP). In 2014, the company began generating revenue report summaries automatically.
A year later, said AP the system produced about 3,000 of these stories each quarter — a tenfold increase over what AP reporters and editors previously made.
In 2020, Microsoft announced it would be replacing pesky humans in its news department with shiny AI. The workers had curated and edited stories for MSN home pages and the Edge browser. The Cupertino company fired the journalists despite warnings that it was risky to replace them with software.
The warnings turned out to be prescient. MSN went on to run a range of fake stories. Highlights included Bigfoot sightings, mermaid catches, and Grimes suing Elon Musk.
CNET described the initiative as a mere experiment. And as with many experiments, the results were unpredictable.
The text generators made “very stupid mistakes”, according to futurism. The site was forced to add lengthy corrections to some articles.
In January, the Wall Street Journal revealed that BuzzFeed would use AI to improve its quizzes and personalize certain content. The move came after another round of layoffs at the struggling publisher.
The initiative is a collaboration with ChatGPT creator OpenAI. In what is sure to put BuzzFeed employees at ease, ChatGPT recently claimed that AI “will never completely replace human journalists”.
The Next Internet
Much to my chagrin, even your favorite tech site has dabbled in AI-generated content. Most famously, our former colleague Satoshi Nakaboto produced automated reports on cryptocurrencies. Fortunately, the repulsive Nakaboto was fired years ago.
More recently, AI has produced images for the Superlative TNW Newsletter. This is undoubtedly a much more appropriate role for automated media, but I would say so.