When India Today group’s vice chairperson Kalli Purie last fortnight introduced an Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered reporter named Sana to Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a event organised by Aaj Tak news channel, audiences were awestruck at the site of an anchor conducting herself on the screen which was not a human but a Bot. The facial expressions, hands’ movements, speech control, clearly pronounced words and untiring attitude was all that the Bot Sana displayed while welcoming the Prime Minister to the event.
While this technological achievement amazed the audiences, it sent shivers down the spines of many journalists for the simple reason that this AI enabled bot which includes news presenters, anchors and even writers, might replace them in future. This is the fact as well. Sana like Bots who can speak fluently by converting text to speech has already appeared in Kuwait which is named Fehad. Way back in 2018 China had introduced a male AI anchor in Xinhua News channel while Russian television has Snezhana Tumanova as its first virtual weather presenter.
One agrees or not but this is the future wherein artificial intelligence (AI) is sure to take journalists head on. These AI enabled anchors or news casters can work round the clock using algorithms. Their appearance, speech or conduct will in future will be matching any human being and the presentation will be flawless and precise. Why on this earth then anyone would require to pay hefty salaries or perks to journalists who won’t be able to match these bots anywhere close to their perfection and untiring efforts?
Another benefit of these bots is that they can be programmed to convert texts into multiple languages and then speak in same language to different audiences or listeners as well. This way bots will be working 24X7 and keeping the public updated with latest news from around the globe. Sana’s presence at PM’s meet was India’s remarkable achievement in keeping a pace with world when it comes to news presentations or using AI in our day today works. This established that Indian journalism is far ahead of any other nation and can keep a pace with developments.
Is this AI giant scary or we need to adopt some changes to our courses to stay relevant? Firstly, we need to use AI responsibly rather intelligently knowingly where its much needed. Secondly, if a good journalist wants to stay relevant, save his or her job then he/she all will have to focus on maintaining ethics of journalism and work accordingly. Thirdly, nothing can replace human brain when it comes to observing things and analysing them. Hence, being original, true and authentic while gathering data from the site to report an event cannot match any human intelligence.
Every journalist will have to acquire knowledge about Artificial Intelligence (AI), have a fair judgement of situations while reporting events, be very much original in writing or reporting news and most importantly have a final say in the editorials. This way journalists and AI will work in tandem. News, as said by a renowned TV journalist should be as it happens, when it happens and where it happens. This is what should be served to the people without distorting facts. If this all will being done by AI, the situation becomes little scary.
While bots will replace TV presenters and AI will replace news writers for the simple reason that it will be easier for this technology to analyse news with regards to past and then present before readers especially in sports or weather reporting. Take for example Karnataka elections. By the time a human journalist will gather data about past election results of Karnataka, the AI will gather information in a fraction of second and even compare and analyse it with past trends of voting to give a fair analysis about results. However, it will only be a human brain that will tell where and what went wrong for which party and based on same data or analysis editorials will be written.
While such stories will be a prime domain of AI, journalists will be required to look for human angle stories, investigative stories, exploring the hidden talents, assessing critical areas in the administration, working on unconventional stories, reinventing areas where good stories could be evaluated and finally venture into the spheres where machines will be waiting for commands to come from their masters. This is how AI can be tackled and jobs saved. In nutshell, one will have to be original in writing or presenting news while following ethics in journalism to stay relevant in the field.
This automated news writing when will start saving time, why would editors wait for journalists to gather information, settle in their desks at home or in office and write same news which can be well written by bots using much better vocabulary and ample data stored in chips. This also means that instead of table stories it will be better for journalists to venture out into the fields to do better stories be it that from university campuses, government offices, sports fields, investigative ones or from areas that remain unexplored.
Meantime, back in office AI will be presenting news with full accuracy, checking fake news, and also nailing plagiarism. AI can also be countered in articles of public interest especially in tourism sector where each and every journalist looks at the place with different perspective and then presents the same in her/his own word counts. The best described stories not only get more likes but also fetches the place more tourists.
To be more precise if one puts a place like Paris in AI enabled computers it will write a beautiful story which might have been written millions of times but on the other hand a travel journalist will look at the city profile differently and report accordingly. There can be n-number of stories on one place provided they are done from different perspectives and more authentically. While any common person will report about fashion or iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris, a good and widely travelled journalist, in his or her original story, might add city infrastructure, food, education and even people’s life beyond fashion industry or how the stocks are treated after fashion shows are over. That’s sustainable journalism!
While AI technology can help journalists get accurate data or quotes of prominent personalities, a good and learned journalist can look beyond this data to write original stories. It is also believed that data available with AI can confine its limits to analyse stories which can be bias and this is where human brain and observations will surpass or counter AI. The AI will not be able to conduct live debates or hold interviews of par excellence by putting apt and relevant questions that will emerge during the course of interviews. This is an advantage over AI!
While world keeps making news, it will only be the prerogative of editor to select and chose news for his/her newspaper, magazine or Television or for that matter social media. What’s relevant with regards to location of a place or people’s interest will finally be decided by the editor. Similarly, it will be the pure choice of a journalist to look for a relevant news and not just anything to fill in the columns of newspapers or magazines.
There’s no denying the fact that AI will be very helpful in gathering data and using it for making informative stories. For a crime reporting, results of students, trending professional trades, weather, government finances, elections and medical researches’ data will help file stories with reference to past trends and will be quite informative for the readers, viewers or listeners.
To think positively, AI will not replace jobs but will assist journalists in presenting a news more accurately packed with data and its analysis. So, instead of getting scared, journalists must prepare themselves to use the technology to authenticate facts, add information to their stories, discard fake information, prepare reports quickly, be prepared to report from the site of natural calamities which AI cannot do and use the technology with caution to make news more authentic and worth pondering upon.
(The writer is senior journalist)