Losing the Power of the First Person: Journalism and Artificial Intelligence


“Meet ChatGPT, one of the most advanced and intelligent language models in the world today. Created by OpenAI, a leading research organization dedicated to developing artificial intelligence in a safe and beneficial way, ChatGPT is designed to communicate with humans in a natural and intuitive manner.”

The first paragraph of this article wasn’t written by me. It was created by me typing “write an article on ChatGPT” into its system. I have to admit, it’s pretty good. 

When playing around with this new technology, perhaps my first thought was selfish. As someone interested in a career in writing and journalism, how would this affect my future prospects?

As of now, journalists are not going anywhere, and newsrooms are not disappearing. However, some news outlets have already started incorporating Chat GPT technology. CNET was using AI to write articles, utilizing a disclaimer at the beginning stating the article was written using this software and fact-checked by their staff. However, the media site announced in late December that it will be pausing its use of AI to write articles after noticing several factual and grammatical errors in the pieces produced. While ChatGPT is an imperfect system, it is part of our future. It will be incorporated into the newsroom and publication process and likely shape our perceptions of journalism. 

Gael Brenton, a digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) expert, echoes that ChatGPT is here to stay

“Is it good or bad? [It] doesn’t matter because it’s happening anyway. What matters is how we use this technology and how we make sure it’s not used to spread fake news,” Brenton said.

ChatGPT can have some upsides in assisting current journalists in the writing process. It can be used to help journalists simplify abstract concepts of articles, generate questions for interviews and serve as a sub-editor. While newsrooms are claiming they are only using this technology to write articles that are not rooted in opinion, if newsrooms start opting to use the technology for non-political and non-controversial topics such as lifestyle, there is no way of knowing how this could change in the future. Will we always rely on journalists spending hours and days writing articles that Chat GTP could generate in a matter of seconds? When can minor edits and brainstorming ideas shift to OP-Eds generated by machine learning? 

Evidently, there are ethical caveats to using this technology. It replaces human thoughts and efforts with a manufactured system. In essence, AI takes away the artistry of journalism. It automates words based on patterns rather than seeing how words can come together to paint a compelling picture for the reader. 

There is power in being able to use the first person. When I use “I”, this “I” has weight; you know exactly who is speaking to you on the page. For there to be a person clacking away at the keyboard writing an article fosters a connection between writer and reader. It is a reminder that written text is a human creation, and by virtue of this it is imperfect, flawed, and can be contended. Using the first person gives journalists a sense of autonomy and empowerment. 

I began to consider the ways to use Chat GPT in the journalism process not only impacts those writing the articles, but society as a whole. The power behind writing and journalism lies in its intimacy. A writer has an idea, puts it on paper, and sends it out into the world, allowing themselves to be vulnerable to the general populace, putting their name to their words. An AI bot does not have to put its ideas, truth, and reputation at stake by placing its name on the by-line. The power of journalism lies in this vulnerability and intimacy between the reader and writer. A writer allows the reader to connect with their mind by seeing how their brain works and their thought process. Readers then have their own intimate experience with the written text. They form their own opinions, ponder questions with others or themselves, and can shift their mindsets in ways that can have societal implications bigger than a single article. 

Journalism in itself is a personal conversation between the writer and the reader. It’s the writer asking questions the reader might have but does not have a voice to use to ask.

This shared expression of language is the foundation of our humanity. Words can unite and words can divide us. It should always be a human spearing this power.