To understand ChatGPT, let’s first grasp what defines this technology. ChatGPT, short for Generative Pre-Trained Transformer, is an advanced large language model that is trained on extensive datasets of books, articles, and web content. Utilising deep learning techniques, it excels in generating natural language responses. Developed by OpenAI, an American artificial intelligence research laboratory, in 2019, it’s considered the best AI chatbot ever. And popular too: currently, it has around 180.5 million users. OpenAI subsequently introduced GPT-4 with improvements in accuracy, creativity, and collaborative capabilities compared to its predecessor, GPT-3.5. What comes next? Competitors. Google has introduced its own AI service, Bard, while Microsoft has launched its AI-powered digital assistant, CoPilot. Meta, in turn, launched Llama 2.
While automated journalism has existed for about a decade, it was previously limited to large newsrooms. Now, tools like ChatGPT have democratised news production globally.
While automated journalism has existed for about a decade, it was previously limited to large newsrooms. Now, tools like ChatGPT have democratised news production globally. “Anyone can use it. If you’re the CEO or an intern, anyone can put a prompt in,” says Charlie Beckett, founding director of the Journalism AI Project, Polis Institute.
The generative AI market is forecasted to surge exponentially from $7.9 billion in 2021 to an estimated $110.8 billion by 2030, according to Acumen Research and Consulting. Furthermore, McKinsey has poised that generative AI could contribute $4 trillion to the global economy.
How can journalists use ChatGPT?
While some journalists eagerly embrace this technology, others remain hesitant, questioning its impact on their craft. Roger Tredre, a former fashion journalist and course leader of MA Fashion Communication at Central Saint Martins, is encouraging his students to explore the potential of ChatGPT to cut the boring bits of work – research, for example. He says, “ChatGPT is here to stay. We all need to find ways to experiment with it. But ChatGPT is a long way off being able to deliver a great catwalk show report.”
“ChatGPT replicates a lot of the work I used to do as an intern, in the capacity of helping with some social media post captions and in my work in the early stages, like preparing for interviews.” – Hannah Connolly, Stack World
“ChatGPT literally scans the internet quickly, quicker than ever,” says Odunayo (Ayo) Ojo, digital creator and a fashion critic. In news reporting, ChatGPT excels at identifying key themes and essential points in lengthy documents, helping reporters in crafting effective coverage strategies.
Hannah Connolly, editorial manager at the gender equality app, Stack World, says ChatGPT is an invaluable time management tool. “I juggle multiple things at one time in a small team, and AI comes in handy. It replicates a lot of the work I used to do as an intern, in the capacity of helping with some social media post captions and in my work in the early stages, like preparing for interviews.”
Gen AI can make some jobs more efficient by carrying out mundane and repetitive tasks. “Things like transcribing interviews, sifting through hundreds and hundreds of documents, filtering readers’ comments. Nobody got into journalism because they were looking forward to doing those things again and again,” says Olivia Pinnock, a seasoned fashion journalist and lecturer at LCF.
“When writing data-driven stories, journalists might emphasise on content that can be easily quantified, potentially overlooking more nuanced and complex narratives.” – Charlie Beckett, Polis Institute
Lisa Zirngast, affiliate fashion editor of Glamour, Germany, believes ChatGPT to be a valuable assisting tool for basic, straightforward reporting. Zoel Hernandes, a Barcelona-based fashion journalist, says, “ChatGPT helps in gathering client information and synthesising it efficiently, giving a head start to content development, which can later be fine-tuned to match a human tone.” ChatGPT even serves as an invaluable tool for journalists looking to refine their language skills. “English is not my first language and sometimes I have certain doubts that can easily be solved online. AI speeds this process up,” adds Hernandes. Amidst the integration of Gen AI, there is an opposite camp – a group of fashion journalists who use ChatGPT for menial tasks like transcribing, but express concern over the loss of human creativity that ChatGPT brings. “Words and writing are muscles that need to be constantly used and practiced. If I swap that out with AI-powered tools, I worry it may make my mind lazy and lose touch with this deep skill I have honed over so many years,” says Akanksha Kamath, former fashion feature director at Vogue India and creative consultant.
ChatGPT could also make misinformation and disinformation cheaper and easier to produce. “A big limitation is the risk of creating and spreading misinformation, disinformation and bias,” says Hernandes.
Over-reliance on technology would shift journalists’ priorities. “For instance, when writing data-driven stories, journalists might emphasise on content that can be easily quantified, potentially overlooking more nuanced and complex narratives,” says Beckett. This trend also extends to social media, where journalists tend to overemphasise the importance of platforms like Twitter (now X), providing a restricted view of people and ongoing discussions, rather than a comprehensive picture.
“AI is still at a very nascent stage to understand the nuances of creativity.” – Shruti Thacker, The Established
Will AI replace journalists?
As tasks traditionally handled by junior and mid-level employees are being performed by Generative AI, concerns about potential job losses emerge. “This potential shift is not confined solely to journalism; it extends to related positions, such as copywriting, which has traditionally supported the industry,” says Pinnock. Goldman Sachs predicts generative AI could potentially lead to the replacement of 300 million jobs.
Despite these predictions, experts like Francesco Marconi, founder of Applied XL, argue that while AI might indeed streamline certain tasks, human involvement will remain essential. They foresee the emergence of new roles like automation and AI editors, indicating a shift in the nature of work rather than complete displacement.
“It is important to uphold transparency and honesty when employing tools like ChatGPT in the editorial process.” – Olivia Pinnock, Fashion Journalist
“AI is still at a very nascent stage to understand the nuances of creativity,” says Shruti Thacker, the co-founder and Editorial Director of The Established. Because of this, she believes AI today is missing some key skills that will prevent it from taking a more significant role in journalism. “ChatGPT tool should be used to enhance efficiency, rather than a complete replacement for human creativity. This is where AI fits in with journalism: not as a replacement, but as a useful assistant that can make life easier for journalists,” says Connolly. “However, it is important to uphold transparency and honesty when employing tools like ChatGPT in the editorial process,” says Pinnock. Failing to do so could potentially mislead readers, compromising the ethical standards that underpin journalism. Men’s Journal has adopted a similar approach, including a disclaimer whenever an article has been augmented with the help of the Gen AI tool.
Ultimately, the future of journalism lies not in a dichotomy between tradition and innovation, but in their harmonious collaboration. Rather than perceiving AI as a threat, journalists can proactively prepare themselves to navigate this ever-evolving industry. To grasp the nuances of this new era, experimentation is key. This hands-on approach allows journalists to move beyond misconceptions and hype, gaining real insight into its complexities and potential.
Find ways of how it fits into your practice, your company’s, or the publication that you’ve worked for. According to Beckett, AI is not about the total automation of content production from start to finish: it is about augmentation. If AI is something that can make you type more intelligently, it’s like alpine walking sticks, in that if it makes you go 10% faster, then that’s amazing.”