The arrival of ChatGPT-3 will be seen as “transformational, not iterative” change, according the US-based Local Media Association’s Frank Mungeam.
He likens the last November 30 release as “a similarly seismic moment” to when he sent his first email.
“Work that’s been going on for years behind the scenes to develop ever more powerful AI applications suddenly became public, accessible and practical,” he says.
Just like when he and a friend used CD-ROMs to set up AOL accounts… and were surprised when their first emails got through. “The internet was a digital miracle,” he says.
Now the question is how big is the ChatGPT shift: relative to the introduction of the iPhone, the release of Google search, or the internet itself.
Mungeam (pictured) believes “the answer is yes”.
To those who think ChatGPT might put journalists out of a job, he argues a failure to develop sustainable local business models is a bigger immediate threat. “In the long run, ChatGPT and its AI peers pose the biggest threat to journalists who don’t explore how to use these tools to enhance their reporting. Likewise, the explosion of overnight AI-expert social media accounts suggests all the pitfalls of previous ‘gold rush’ moments.”
He urges resisting “the either/or extremes of both the doomists and the magical thinkers. It’s neither the best of times, nor the worst. More likely, it will be a mix of both.”
Publishers should start small – but start, he says, noting people are already using the tool daily, incorporating into their workflow as a check, a sounding board, or a second opinion in all kinds of activities from email responses to writing summaries of longer reports to cover letter first drafts.
“I wouldn’t stay up until midnight every night going down ChatGPT rabbit holes; but I also wouldn’t ‘wait for the fuss to blow over’ – because it won’t.”
The new capabilities can be integrated in many simple ways as everyday productivity tools, and Mungeam urges there’s no sense in waiting to leverage these small improvements.
“In every area of operations, chat AI can be used as a tool to complement work people are already doing. In news organisations, this is just as true on the business side as on the reporting side.”
He provides LMA members with a checklist of questions to ask, places to start wherever there’s friction in a news organisation, and with processes that seem harder than they should be?
Also repetitive tasks and those which require going through large amounts of data or information, or feel like grunt work, “or you wish you had an intern for”.
And those that require more time than judgment.
Mungeam says as a professor of practice doing TV news innovation at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, he wrote about the importance of creating a ‘stop-doing’ list. “The premise was that an essential step to creating capacity for implementing new, better ideas and workflows was to rethink existing practices rather than endlessly adding new duties to everyone’s jobs.
“ChatGPT and its peers are tools that can be used to reimagine past workflows.
The potential use cases for these small-efficiency wins are vast.”
A free e-handbook, ChatGPT for Local News Publishers by Joe Amditis of the Center for Cooperative Media, features more than 50 potential use cases just for newsrooms… “everything from transcribing audio/video to generating story headline options and draft social media posts, developing FAQs, summarising long articles, and creating meeting agenda, project timelines and budgets”. On the sales/revenue side, he says there are just as many uses.
He urges learning the ‘language’ and limitations of AI, understanding ‘prompting’ (the term used to describe the question) and ‘hallucinations’… “the tendency of chatbots to produce confident-sounding but incorrect answers”.
And finally, he urges potential users to ‘ask hard questions’ – over concepts such as authorship, copyright, sourcing and transparency – and to develop guidelines for how, when and why they should use AI
LMA has recently published a report, ‘Here come the machines: AI for local news’ which is free to those working for a Local Media Innovation Alliance subscriber company, and US$159 for others.