The publisher of the Daily Mirror and Daily Express newspapers is exploring whether artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT could help journalists write short news stories, as media organisations look at ways of using AI.
Reach chief executive Jim Mullen told the Financial Times the company had set up a working group to examine how the tool might be used to assist human reporters compiling coverage of topics such as local weather and traffic.
“We’ve tasked a working group, across our tech and editorial teams, to explore the potential and limitations of machine-learning such as ChatGPT”, he said. “We can see potential to use it in the future to support our journalists for more routine stories like local traffic and weather or to find creative uses for it, outside of our traditional content areas.”
Newsrooms around the world are considering how advancements in generative AI, including OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard chatbot, will affect the production of journalism.
BuzzFeed announced last month that it would work with OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT, to help produce its viral quizzes, while online news site CNET attempted to use the program to write economic explainers before observers pointed out they contained multiple errors.
Some news organisations have experimented with AI for years. Thomson Reuters has used an in-house programme called Lynx Insight since 2018 to sift through information such as market data to find patterns for reporters.
Reach publishes more than 130 national and regional titles including the Daily Record and the Manchester Evening News. Last month the company warned that its annual profit would be lower than expected after it was hit by cost inflation and lower advertising rates, especially in print. It also said it would cut about 200 jobs in its editorial and commercial teams out of a total headcount of 4,500.
However, the group has been expanding its presence to the US, opening an office in New York this year and launching online US versions of the Daily Express and the Irish Star to appeal to the US’s Irish-American population.
Reach said exploring uses for AI had more to do with embracing new technology and use of data than cutting costs, adding that Reach employed more journalists now than at any time than in the past 10 years.
Mullen said: “It’s still very early days but it’s something we see as a tool to support our editorial teams, much like the other tech we’re already using.”
However. Chris Morley, the National Union of Journalists’ co-ordinator for Reach, expressed some concern and said that he would “be seeking meetings with the company”.
“I am concerned that the company hasn’t spoken to us in the first place as there’s a potential impact on jobs,” he said. “We’re going through 200 job losses in the group, it’s been a painful process”.
Francesco Marconi, co-founder of computational journalism company AppliedXL, who used to work on automation and AI at the Associated Press, said the application of ChatGPT in journalism would be in “supporting functions”.
“A framework to think about this is if GPT was an intern that can help you edit certain passages of reporting but can’t generate original reporting,” he said.