MAN & MACHINES

How The Rising AI Wave Could Impact Media & African Tech Coverage

By  |  February 9, 2023

At a panel discussion that took place around midday on the opening day of the ongoing AfricaNXT conference (formerly Social Media Week Lagos), the potential impact of the emerging generative AI wave on tech media and journalism as a profession was explored. The discussions of the day also examined the relationship between Africa’s growing tech scene and the media, with panellists sharing their thoughts on the evolving intersections and best practices.

One of the more interesting talking points explored – during the panel discussion that dissected the topic “The Role of the Media in African Tech Coverage” – came during the Q&A session when the subject of the potential impact of recent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence (AI) models on tech media was raised. WT was represented at the event and raised the question which made for something of an engaging thought experiment.

“Will AI replace journalists? No, I don’t think so,” said Alexander Onukwue, a reporter for the new global publication Semafor, who was on the panel packaged by TechCabal which included two other speakers: Aanu Adeoye – West African correspondent, Financial Times; and David Idagu – Africa Regional Consultant, Allison+Partners.

“AI won’t hang out in bars or meet people, AI won’t capture context and nuance on the ground, AI won’t go out and gather facts or make sense of complicated issues and motivations” Onukwue emphasised.

He also noted: “I don’t think AI will replace journalists, if anything, it will complement them. I do believe there are aspects of generic tech reporting that AI can replace, such as funding news or other announcements, for instance. In fact, I think some institutions such as the Associated Press already automate some forms of writing with AI. So, I believe AI can be a writing tool, but it won’t replace journalists.”

The rise of artificial intelligence is tipped to transform many aspects of life, and journalism is no exception. In recent years, language models – such as OpenAI’s viral ChatGPT model – have become increasingly sophisticated, leading to the potential for their widespread use in the field of journalism, with tech journalism seemingly a natural testbed by way of proximity. However, concerns about machines taking jobs linger.

In January, BuzzFeed, the New York-headquartered internet media company said it will use Open AI’s technology to generate content for its website. This includes quizzes, which is attributed as the first step in extended content creation, Forbes reported. This came one month after BuzzFeed announced a layoff that cut 12 percent of its workforce.

“In 2023, you’ll see AI-inspired content move from an R&D (Research and Development) stage to part of our core business, enhancing the quiz experience, informing our brainstorming, and personalising our content for our audience,” BuzzFeed Chief Executive Jonah Peretti said in a memo to employees.

“The creative process will increasingly become AI-assisted and technology-enabled,” Peretti shared in the memo, according to Reuters.

It has been acknowledged that the emerging, exciting generative AI tech endeavour – which has also now seen Google introduce its own conversational AI service, Bard, albeit not to the best of starts  – has the potential to transform the way journalists work, report, and produce articles, bringing numerous benefits to the industry.

One of the most significant advantages of ChatGPT-like platforms is their ability to generate articles quickly and efficiently. In a rapidly changing and fast-paced industry such as tech, it’s essential for journalists to be able to produce timely and relevant articles.

With ChatGPT, journalists can, in an ideal scenario, be able to generate articles rapidly, giving them a competitive edge and enabling them to keep pace with the fast-changing tech landscape. This speed and efficiency can also help journalists cover more stories, giving them a wider reach and providing a more comprehensive coverage of the tech scene.

Another advantage of ChatGPT is its ability to provide journalists with access to vast amounts of data and information. This can help journalists with their research and fact-checking, resulting in more accurate and reliable articles. With the right training, ChatGPT can also help journalists expand their knowledge and expertise in a particular field, leading to more comprehensive and insightful articles.

However, it is important to note that it is unlikely that ChatGPT will replace human journalists. The role of journalists is to provide context, analysis, and perspective to the news, something that ChatGPT is unable to do.

As such, journalists should be able to use ChatGPT as a tool to enhance their work and not as a substitute for their skills and expertise. It is thus essential that the technology be used in conjunction with human expertise to ensure that the final output reflects unique voices, thoughts, and perspectives.

Featured Image Credits: Analytics Insight

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