Newsletter. How journalism can learn to live with (and even love) ChatGPT

AI in journalism is a topic of debate, but beyond the question of whether robots will replace journalists, the real question is how editors and journalists can use these new tools to their advantage.

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The first spreadsheet software, VisiCalc, was instantly billed as the death knell for traditional accounting roles, yet as the BBC reminds us it actually kick-started a whole new approach to accounting, and created thousands of jobs in the process

For all the recent fuss about ChatGPT it’s worth remembering that a full five years have gone by since French author Damien Desbordes published his book on whether robots would replace journalists.

AI in publishing has hit the headlines with big players already replacing journalists with algorithms, both in the technology world at CNet, and more eye-catchingly with the announcements from Axel Springer.

Axel Springer may have hit the headlines, but in fact many major news outlets, including Reuters, the Associated Press, and the Washington Post are all using AI. ChatGPT may be getting the lion’s share of the coverage but Google’s Bard, and Microsoft’s Bing are quietly moving in on the sidelines.

There are also plenty of schadenfreude-soaked articles about the failings of AI including factual errors and inappropriate behaviour.

From Upgrade Media’s point of view, however, what matters is not whether the robots will replace us, but how publishers and journalists can best use these new tools to their advantage.

Journalists using AI tools are quick to point out their benefits when it comes to generating synopses of complex issues, automatically generating follow up questions, and even subbing text.  The AI chatbot can also help time-pressed smaller publishers to create levels of customer support that take pressure off staff.

What is perhaps more interesting is looking at what AI can’t do; and how that plays to the strengths of journalism.  The nature of AI is that its responses are based on historic, already existing information and not the fresh, the personal experience, or the community voice. Which means that publishers might be best served by using AI for what it is good at while diverting resources to investigative journalism, local community experiences, and building their own distinct branding.

Before announcing the death of journalism it’s also worth noting that a new role has been created: the AI editor. The Financial Times has appointed Madhumita Murgia as its AI Editor to cover the implications and developments of this technological surge.

To find out more about how our use of AI can help you, optimizing strategy, stimulating readers and standing out from competitors take a look at our own findings on how AI can help select the right headline.

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