The way we consume news is at a turning point, and AI-powered chatbots like ChatGPT might be driving the change. According to Jim Albrecht, former senior director of Google News, these large language models (LLMs) pose an “existential threat” to journalists and the news industry as we know it.
What if, every time you read an interesting news article, you were given immediate access to the journalist who wrote it so you could ask follow-up questions and discuss the material?, laid out Jim Albrecht in a recent op-ed for The Washington Post.
Traditionally, news came from newspapers and TV, but the internet revolutionized how we access it. Now, imagine getting your news fix by directly engaging with AI “journalists” who can answer your questions and discuss the content in real-time. That’s Albrecht’s vision for the future.
LLMs as News Aggregators and Analyzers
LLMs like ChatGPT can process vast amounts of information, including live news articles. They can then summarize, rephrase, and deliver news in a user-friendly format, eliminating the need to read individual articles. This, argues Albrecht, will shift our focus from static articles to interactive, conversational news experiences.
“The users will interact less and less with the actual articles and instead talk about the articles with what the tech industry used to call ‘intelligent agents.’”
Albrecht believes AI’s ability to handle millions of simultaneous “one-on-one” conversations could trump human journalists’ physical limitations.
Big Tech has predicted the demise of traditional journalism before, most notably when Facebook prioritized video in 2015. While some newsrooms struggled to adapt, online print media proved more resilient than anticipated.
Experiments using AI for article generation have yielded mixed results. Some have achieved success with transparency, while others have faced issues like factual errors and reader trust erosion.
The Future of News: Collaboration or Collision?
It’s too early to declare AI the victor in the journalism game. While AI tools can offer efficiency and new forms of engagement, human journalists bring critical thinking, experience, and the ability to connect with audiences on an emotional level. Perhaps the future lies in collaboration, with AI augmenting human journalists’ capabilities and fostering deeper audience interaction.