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Are Journalists Still Needed in the Age of Artificial Intelligence?

Career & Money

Sun, May 19

In 2023, almost 8,000 journalism-related jobs were cut at British and North American media outlets. In the same year, a Northwestern University study found that on average, 2.5 newspapers had closed per week, while Mathias Doepfner, the CEO of a German media group, warned his staff that AI meant job cuts were looming.

It's therefore no surprise that many established journalists are feeling uncertain about the stability of their careers, while prospective journalists are wondering whether it would be smarter to defer to a field with better job security.

As AI grows more advanced, the question is only becoming more pressing: are journalists still needed in the age of AI?

What is AI?

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AI stands for artificial intelligence. It refers to when computers and machines are programmed to think and act like humans. In recent decades, technological breakthroughs mean that AI is flourishing.

Artificial intelligence is rapidly becoming a staple of everyday modern life. It can be used for tasks ranging from driving cars to serving as chatbots and helping students with their homework. A new generation is swiftly coming to rely on AI, just as past generations learned to rely on the internet.

Why is AI Dangerous for Journalists?

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AI has progressed enough in areas such as natural language processing (the ability to understand human languages) and natural language generation (the ability to produce human languages) that it's now capable of independently producing bodies of writing.

Theoretically, this means that it's possible to produce articles and news using AI instead of human journalists. Members of the public could go so far as to simply ask a chatbot like ChatGPT a question about a particular global event and be provided with an immediate response.

For example, I had only to ask ChatGPT "Is Joe Biden going to win the 2024 election?" and I was provided with a four-paragraph response, complete with statistics and poll data.

Already, worries have arisen in recent decades regarding the public's decreased news consumption. The boom in AI is only worsening these fears.

In 2023, Google was reported to be testing to see whether AI could be used to write news articles. They were careful to mention that they had no intention to replace journalists and were only experimenting. Even so, it's difficult to ignore the obvious: more than one media company's CEO is likely to be eyeing up AI.

Replacing journalists with AI could save companies money. While setting up AI systems may initially be expensive, companies would not have to pay AI salaries as they do with journalists and would likely save money in the long run.

It could be argued that using AI is also more objective given that computers don't hold the same biases and personal motivations as humans. Additionally, using computers instead of humans may result in writing with fewer errors. This would allow articles to be published more promptly and enable a faster turnover of news.

What Journalists Possess that AI Never Will

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If you're someone who dreams of being a journalist, don't let AI scare you off. While it's understandable why AI is creating fears regarding the future of journalism, it's highly unlikely that journalists will become obsolete any time soon.

For all AI's advantages, a computer will never be able to capture emotions in the manner of a journalist. A crucial aspect of journalism is the need to convey news with empathy; to engage readers, articles must touch people. Computers are simply unable to handle sensitive issues like health or war with the same care as a human.

Additionally, AI is not infallible―shockingly enough, it can make mistakes.

Artificial intelligence relies on data. If an algorithm has been created using old data, there's a chance it could be skewed by factors such as lack of gender and racial diversity. This could impact the results produced.

To make matters worse, data and algorithms run the risk of being influenced by their human creator's prejudices. AI's inability to critically think means that it may unintentionally produce offensive results. Hence, AI is not as time-efficient and objective as it seems at first glance.

A survey conducted by The Media Leader found that 72% of respondents would prefer to read content written by a human journalist over AI. The same study found that 64% of people believe that AI content increases the risk of misinformation ahead of a political election.

Hence, while media companies may be tempted to use AI, they are unlikely to replace journalists with it. Although, like AI, journalists can make mistakes, people seem to prefer the mistakes of a human over those of a robot. AI's inability to connect with readers in the manner of humans means journalists possess a powerful and—for now—inimitable edge over artificial intelligence.

Does AI Have a Future in Journalism?

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AI may not be perfect, but this does not mean that it's useless―far from it. While AI cannot be used to produce journalism by itself, it can be used in collaboration with journalists to make their work easier.

AI can handle the tedious side of journalism. For example, it can do things like transcribe information while journalists are conducting interviews and capture data from images. As long as it is used ethically and with full transparency, there is no reason why journalists cannot use AI to their advantage.

JournalismAI, a scheme launched by LSE, released findings from a survey examining what news organisations are doing with AI. The survey included the outlook of “more than 120 editors, journalists, technologies and media makers from 105 small and large newsrooms across 46 countries.”

Amongst their findings, they discovered that 'more than 75% of respondents use AI in at least one of the areas across the news value chain of news gathering, production and distribution'. They also found that for more than half of the respondents, freeing up journalists for creative work was a central reason for their integration of AI into the workforce.

This shows that AI isn't necessarily a bad thing for journalism―it can actually be used to make the journalism industry run smoother. So, while AI may make the future of journalism appear daunting, it's important not to let it deter you from pursuing a career in journalism.

The most logical solution? Work with AI, instead of competing against it.

Areesha Ahmed
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Areesha is currently a student. She enjoys watching horror films and drinking tea. When she is not reading books, she is buying them.