I suspected for a while that this would happen but now it’s official: the robots are coming for my job. For years I filled out online quizzes to find out how at risk my profession would be once automated work rose to prominence. I consoled myself that journalists would, at least, be among the last to capitulate. Apparently not.
This week, German media group Axel Springer’s CEO, Mathias Döpfner, told his staff that artificial intelligence (AI) would make some jobs in the company redundant. Such technology, he explained, has the potential to make journalism “better than it ever was – or simply replace it”. And he’s not the only one who thinks so. UK titles the Daily Mirror and Daily Express are also exploring AI’s possibilities; in January, Buzzfeed revealed that it would start using tools such as the suddenly ubiquitous ChatGPT for its quizzes and to tailor articles to its readers.
The thought makes me shiver even though I’m aware of the pro-AI argument: let the machines do the “run-of-the-mill” bits so that journalists can focus on more adventurous, in-depth pieces. Döpfner has declared that no reporters, authors or specialist editors will be losing their jobs, so it remains to be seen who will be axed, given that he reportedly believes that ChatGPT is better at aggregating information than journalists. But years in the newsroom have taught me that no process of selection (or, indeed, “aggregation”) is neutral. Every bit of information, every word, is a choice.
And what about flair, style and opinion? Before starting this column, I asked ChatGPT to write “a Monocle column about using AI in journalism” (don’t worry, what you’ve been reading so far was penned by a human). The bot obliged, filing 421 words – a bit long for this slot – that raised some fair points (“If an AI algorithm is used to make editorial decisions, who is responsible if those decisions turn out to be flawed or unethical?”). It was also remarkably boring and flat, and missed the mark completely on tone. You’ll have to trust me when I say that you’ve been better off reading mine.
Chiara Rimella is Monocle’s executive editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.