Today a number of Swedish local media outlets regularly publish articles written using automated techniques. The articles are often about someone in the local area having launched a company or bought a property. As long as the information the newspaper article is based on is in the right format, this is perfectly possible and the article will be correct, perhaps even interesting. Both PR consultants and communications professionals such as journalists will see more of their new AI colleagues.
The question is whether this is the first step towards AI journalists taking over the jobs of human reporters. It is sometimes difficult to believe that an AI journalist used by NPR in the United States wrote that Elon Musk’s ‘massive space sex rocket’ had exploded. That should have been SpaceX, and the transcription that went awry ought of course to have been checked by a human before it was published.
At the same time, there is no getting away from the fact that AI is a usable technology for the media. I see at least five areas of use for the media, but also for communications and PR departments.
- Background research. ChatGPT can be used to quickly gather information about a subject and to summarise it, usually correctly. Future AI models can be expected to become more accurate.
- Finding news. Large volumes of information can be analysed to find patterns or deviations, which Reuters and AP already claim to be doing today. It is also possible to make a first news assessment, for example of large volumes of new scientific articles. The same thing can also work within companies.
- Proofreading. We all use the spellchecking functions in Word, for example, and get annoyed at the stupid suggestions they make. Artificial intelligence can probably be better at detecting linguistic errors, and more advanced kinds of errors.
- Writing simpler articles. It can be anything from sports results to the articles mentioned above about property purchases and newly launched companies. PR professionals can perhaps write instead about new business deals or new employees.
- Summaries for social media. Schibsted uses an AI tool to write a brief introduction to its articles, which are then published on Snapchat. It can be imagined that it will be possible in future to re-write articles for a format adapted to a different context.
In the best case AI can become a good, smart assistant to PR consultants and journalists in these cases. In the worst case we may all be replaced – which of course is unfortunate for those who lose their jobs, but perhaps even worse for society at large. If anything is certain, it is that AI for the time being is not smart enough to write investigative journalism or write about the increasingly complex things companies work on and need to inform people about.