AI has been creating ripples across businesses and companies are looking to use the technology across different business functions. Google has now come up with an AI tool that can help write news articles. Could this be the function of journalism?
Citing three sources, the New York Times reported that Google is testing a tool named “Genesis” to write news stories and has even pitched it to multiple news organizations including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and News Corp which is the parent company of The Wall Street Journal’s owner.
While AI has always been used by news organizations for reporting stories, especially around corporate earnings, so far, the job was mostly done by journalists.
One of the sources told the New York Times that its tool can be like a personal assistant for journalists and help them automate some of their tasks.
However, it reported that some executives who are privy to Google’s pitch found it “unsettling.” The report added that “Two people said it seemed to take for granted the effort that went into producing accurate and artful news stories.”
In her statement, Google spokeswoman Jenn Crider said that “in partnership with news publishers, especially smaller publishers, we’re in the earliest stages of exploring ideas to potentially provide A.I.-enabled tools to help their journalists with their work.”
She tried to allay fears that these tools demean journalists and said, “Quite simply, these tools are not intended to, and cannot, replace the essential role journalists have in reporting, creating and fact-checking their articles.”
Google Is Testing an AI Tool to Write News Articles
AI is nonetheless making its presence felt in the media industry. According to a report from Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, “in June, a Media company laid off writers as the owner pivoted to a project in Artificial Intelligence.”
Notably, the firm’s May report found that 3,900 people lost their jobs due to AI in the month. It was the first time that the firm listed AI as among the reasons for job losses.
Meanwhile, the June report shows that the worst of US layoffs might be over and revealed that total US layoffs fell by almost half in June to the lowest level since October 2022.
Separately, data compiled by Layoffs.fyi shows an interesting trend in tech layoffs. In January, 273 tech companies globally laid off 89,554 workers cumulatively which was the peak in the current cycle.
The layoffs have since tapered down and fell to 10,524 in June. That said, the number of companies that are laying off workers has been on an uptrend and totaled 92, 94, and 108 respectively in April, May, and June.
The data suggest that tech companies are now laying off fewer workers and rather than mass layoffs of the kind we saw previously, they could be performance-related as well.
Artificial Intelligence is Finding Its Way into Newsrooms
Meanwhile, AI is finding its way into newsrooms and according to a Tech Crunch report, media organizations like Insider and NPR have informed staff that they are exploring how to use the technology in their newsrooms.
All said, media organizations looking to pivot to AI might need to tread with caution as CNET’s shift to generative AI to produce articles backfired. The organization had to issue corrections to over half of such articles including those related to factual errors and likely plagiarized content.
Some articles on the website carry a note saying “An earlier version of this article was assisted by an AI engine. This version has been substantially updated by a staff writer.”
Meanwhile, others say that AI writer tools like Google Genesis are both an opportunity as well as a threat.
According to Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor, and media commentator, “If this technology can deliver factual information reliably, journalists should use the tool.”
He however warned “If, on the other hand, it is misused by journalists and news organizations on topics that require nuance and cultural understanding,” then it “could damage the credibility not only of the tool, but of the news organizations that use it.”
AI Might Also Lead to the Creation of New Jobs
To be sure, there is anxiety over potential job losses from AI and a Forbes survey showed that over three fourth of people worry that AI would lead to job losses over the next year.
Even OpenAI CEO Sam Altman warned that AI could “eliminate” many jobs – while adding that it would create “much better ones.” During his Congressional testimony though he admitted that AI “could go very wrong.”
Meanwhile, while many fear that AI would lead to widespread job losses, Goldman Sachs believes that AI would help increase productivity by 1.5% annually until the end of this decade and boost S&P 500 earnings by 30% or higher.
While many tech workers have lost their jobs amid the ongoing layoffs, companies are still hiring for AI and according to job portal Indeed generative AI-related job postings in the US rose 20% in May.
The searches for generative AI jobs have also spiked since the launch of ChatGPT last year and continue to stay at elevated levels even as it has come off its highs.
AI has incidentally been a boon for San Francisco as AI-related hiring is helping the city beat the slowdown blues. According to the city’s most recent employment update, the tech sector in San Francisco and neighboring San Mateo County added 2,800 jobs in May.
To put that in perspective, that’s nearly 38% of the jobs that the city lost amid the tech layoffs.
All said, as AI disrupts multiple industries, newsrooms cannot be far behind. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen that upto what extents AI finds its way into media houses and whether it replaces or complements human journalists.
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