How many journalists could ChatGPT replace? I asked it

Image Credit: Alamy

Unless you’ve been off the grid for the past few weeks, you have probably heard the buzz by now around ChatGPT, the OpenAI model giving us a glimpse into how everything from copywriting to coding will be revolutionized by artificial intelligence.

While various AI models have been around for awhile, what sets ChatGPT apart is its ability to write at a college level – not just for grammar, vocabulary and punctuation, but style – in mere seconds, boosting concerns that the technological leap could spell the beginning of the end for a myriad of jobs in the creative and knowledge economies, including journalism.

What might the impact of ChatGPT and other AI models on the Canadian media industry look like?

I put that question to the application, which told me in the past tense [just one of its idiosyncracies] that its impact would be “significant and far-reaching” and play “a key role in shaping the future of journalism in Canada.”

“One of the most significant impacts of ChatGPT on journalism in Canada was its ability to automate many of the tedious and time-consuming tasks that reporters previously had to do by hand. With ChatGPT, reporters could quickly generate rough drafts of articles, which they could then edit and polish to produce final versions ready for publication. This freed up reporters to focus on more important and creative aspects of their work, such as researching and conducting interviews,” ChatGPT wrote.

Content, reach applications for media

The application suggests its use in journalism could help expand the reach and appeal of news content to attract a wider audience, enabling reporters to accelerate the production of a wide range of content, including interactive articles allowing readers to explore complex topics in greater depth; virtual reality experiences that enable readers to immerse themselves in the news and get a firsthand look at events and places; and automated fact-checking and verification, helping to improve the accuracy and reliability of news reporting.

How many journalists and writers could ChatGPT replace?

The application says the impact of technology on the field of journalism will depend on a variety of factors, including the willingness of news organizations to adopt it and the extent to which it can be used to automate certain tasks.

“However, it is worth noting that the use of language models like ChatGPT in journalism is likely to change the nature of the work rather than replace human journalists entirely. While the technology may be able to automate certain tasks, such as generating rough drafts of articles, it is unlikely to be able to replace the creativity, insight, and human judgement that are essential to journalism,” wrote ChatGPT.

Interest in AI high

Dr. Lili Mou, a Fellow and Canada CIFAR (Canadian Institute for Advanced Research) AI Chair at Amii (Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute) and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computing Science at the University of Alberta, is an expert in AI, machine learning, natural language processing and computational linguistics.

Dr. Lili Mou

Mou expects the media industry to embrace AI in the very near future, pointing out that its use in auto-generating social media posts is already widespread. But he cautions that platforms like ChatGPT still have limitations. While producing seemingly amazing results, he says many responses are template based.

“Logic and injecting knowledge during the chat are not its strengths. If you try to inform ChatGPT about something, overriding its previous belief is difficult,” Mou told Broadcast Dialogue. “For traditional media and particularly factual correctness, I don’t think a company will ever 100% rely on auto-generated text. I think in future, journalists will still have to check copy grammatically, logically, and factually.”

He added that a by-product of the growing fascination with AI is an uptick in students abandoning other areas of study, to rush into computer science programs.

“High school students, humanities students are being attracted to computer science, where previously they might have studied biology or chemistry. Our department is growing and it’s actually due to the growth of AI,” said Mou.

Currently in free research preview, demand on the ChatGPT platform earlier this week was so high that it was unavailable to some users, as OpenAI struggles to scale the platform. Launched on Nov. 30, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman announced online on Dec. 5 that ChatGPT had already surpassed 1 million users. While impressive, Altman himself has cautioned that the tech is still a work in progress.

“ChatGPT is incredibly limited, but good enough at some things to create a misleading impression of greatness,” Altman tweeted. “It’s a mistake to be relying on it for anything important right now. It’s a preview of progress; we have lots of work to do on robustness and truthfulness.”


Subscribe Now – Free!

Broadcast Dialogue has been required reading in the Canadian broadcast media for 30 years. When you subscribe, you join a community of connected professionals from media and broadcast related sectors from across the country.

The Weekly Briefing from Broadcast Dialogue is delivered exclusively to subscribers by email every Thursday. It’s your link to critical industry news, timely people moves, and excellent career advancement opportunities.

Let’s get started right now.

* indicates required