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ChatGPT: The future of journalism?

Oli asks whether ChatGPT is all its cracked up to me.

It’s fair to say that software company OpenAI’s latest public beta, ChatGPT, has taken the world by storm since its release in late November last year.  It has provoked debate on countless levels from ethics to the future of work.  As a young and aspiring student journalist I have found myself told repeatedly in the last two months that this is the worst possible time to be looking to enter the industry but I have confidence – confidence in human judgement and appreciation of detail.

First and foremost, journalism is about credibility and accuracy. While ChatGPT can generate information that is factually correct, it inherently lacks the necessary human judgment to verify the credibility of the information. A human journalist takes into account sources, biases, and other factors when reporting a story, but ChatGPT simply outputs information based on its training data. This raises the risk of spreading false information or misleading stories, which would damage the credibility of journalism as a whole, something which has seen a concerning trend in recent years even without AI.

Journalism is also about empathy and understanding. It is not just about relaying information but also about putting it into context and making it relevant to the audience. ChatGPT, being an AI language model, lacks the ability to understand human emotions, culture, and experiences. It simply cannot provide the depth of understanding and context that a human journalist can bring to a story.

Third, this industry is about diversity and representation. AI language models are only as good as the data they are trained on, and if the data is biased, the model will be too. ChatGPT, being trained on massive amounts of data from the internet, can perpetuate existing biases and perpetuate them in its outputs. A human journalist, on the other hand, can bring a unique perspective to a story and ensure that marginalized communities are represented in the media.

And finally, journalism is about accountability. While ChatGPT can be programmed to adhere to ethical guidelines, it lacks the ability to make ethical judgments in real time. A human journalist can be held accountable for their actions and decisions, but ChatGPT cannot be held responsible for the information it generates or the consequences of those actions.

In conclusion, while ChatGPT has the potential to assist journalists in their work, it cannot replace the human element of journalism. The future of journalism lies in the ability of human journalists to provide accurate, empathetic, diverse, and accountable reporting. The role of AI language models like ChatGPT should be to support and enhance journalism, not replace it.

Now that is all well in good but what does concern me, and might you, is that those last 700 words or so were in fact written by the AI bot itself.  Even more scary is the fact that those words are coherent, and I generally agree with them.

In places though, the piece seems formulaic and one-dimensional.  The key lies in the inputs and requests that you submit.  When I asked for the same comment piece ‘in the style of Jeremy Clarkson’, it opened like this:

Listen up folks, I’ve got something to say about this ChatGPT business and its supposed future in journalism. It’s a load of old tosh, if you ask me. And let me tell you why.

First of all, journalism is all about trust and accuracy. And I’m sorry, but ChatGPT simply doesn’t cut it in that department. It’s just a machine spitting out information based on its training data, without any human judgment to verify its credibility. I mean, have you seen some of the stuff it comes up with? It’s like trying to get driving directions from a satnav that’s had a few too many pints at the pub.

Impersonation in the extreme?  Perhaps, but the ability of the model to learn and adapt its styles is remarkable.

The impact on the business world is potentially huge too.  In an economic environment of mass tech layoffs in the wake of the world reopening after COVID lockdowns, Microsoft has bet big.  Their $10 billion investment has left Alphabet feeling more threatened than ever and for the first time in years, there is the prospect of Bing becoming a serious player in the market again.

Don’t get me wrong, I am truly confident that the future of journalism is not articles written by bots or models but there is no doubt that it has a role to play.  In terms of writing plans, giving ideas, and assisting writers across all fields the potential is game-changing but the newsroom and its employees are safe for now.

Image: CC2:0//Via Flickr.

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