Generative AI is hitting the media — and hackers are worried. Except, of course, for your loyal correspondents at TNW, as automated output doesn’t compare to our flair and original reporting (at least, that’s what I tell my overlords).
However, other journalists are not so blessed. Last week, the owner of Britain’s Daily Mirror and Express became the latest media tycoon to introduce bots into the newsroom.
Publisher Reach has published several AI-authored articles on the local news site near you. According to Reach CEO Jim Mullen, they include a list of “7 things to do with visitors to showcase Newport.”
“This is responsible use of AI.
Not surprisingly, Mullen told the human journalists not to worry. He said his own reporters 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 publisher: that’s AI stewardship,” Mullen added.
However, his words are unlikely to allay the concerns of his employees. Reach, which owns hundreds of national, local and online publications, was already planning extensive job cuts.
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The company is far from the only media brand bringing AI to the pressroom. This is how other outlets are experimenting with automation.
The Associated Press
One of the earliest proponents of AI content was the Associated Press (AP). In 2014, the company began automatically generating earnings report summaries.
A year later, AP said the system was producing about 3,000 of those stories each quarter — a 10-fold increase over what AP reporters and editors were previously producing.
In 2020, Microsoft announced it would replace pesky humans in its news department with shiny AI. The workers had curated and edited stories for MSN’s home pages and the Edge browser. The Cupertino company fired the journalists despite warnings that replacing them with software would be risky.
The warnings proved prescient. MSN continued to spread a series of false stories. Highlights included Bigfoot sightings, mermaid captures and Grimes suing Elon Musk.
Tech site CNET was recently caught publishing machine-written stories. The company never publicly announced the move, but cleared it after an outcry from critics.
CNET described the initiative as a mere experiment. And like many experiments, the results were unpredictable.
The text generators made “very stupid mistakes”, according to Futurism. The site was forced to extensively correct some of the articles.
In January, The Wall Street Journal announced that BuzzFeed would use AI to improve its quizzes and personalize some content. The move came after another round of layoffs at the ailing publisher.
The initiative is a collaboration with ChatGPT creator OpenAI. Surely what will reassure BuzzFeed staffers, ChatGPT recently claimed that AI “will never fully replace human journalists.”
The next web
To my chagrin, even your favorite tech site has dabbled in AI-generated content. Most famously, our former colleague Satoshi Nakaboto created automated reports on cryptocurrencies. Fortunately, the abominable Nakaboto was released years ago.
More recently, AI produced images for the superlative TNW newsletter. Undoubtedly this is a much more appropriate role for automated media – but then I would say so.