In a bid to revolutionize the world of journalism, Google has unveiled its most recent AI product. Internally referred to as “Genesis,” this latest venture was exclusively pitched to a select group of top-tier executives from some of the most renowned news organizations, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and News Corp, the owner of The Wall Street Journal.
The primary objective behind Genesis is to offer news agencies a powerful tool capable of generating articles using artificial intelligence.
The idea of Genesis being adopted by the industry has not been without its share of skepticism and concern.
Some of the executives present at the private event expressed discomfort about the concept of AI-generated news articles. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, they shared their unease with the idea of leaving the task of writing news stories in the hands of artificial intelligence. Their apprehensions centered around the potential implications for journalistic integrity and the impact it might have on the credibility of news content.
To try to quell fears, Google spokesperson Jenn Crider said in a statement: “In partnership with news publishers, especially smaller publishers, we’re in the earliest stages of exploring ideas to potentially provide AI-enabled tools to help journalists with their work. For instance, AI-enabled tools could assist journalists with options for headlines or different writing styles. Our goal is to give journalists the choice of using these emerging technologies in a way that enhances their work and productivity, just like we’re making assistive tools available for people in Gmail and in Google Docs. Quite simply these tools are not intended to, and cannot, replace the essential role journalists have in reporting, creating, and fact-checking their articles.”
AI In Journalism Is Nothing New
Although the notion of using AI in the news media sounds like a novel idea, some news agencies have been using AI for decades.
In 2016, The Washington Post pioneered the creation of Heliograf, an in-house program designed to autonomously generate concise reports for their live blog. First used during the Rio Olympics, Heliograf proved to be a valuable asset, swiftly circulating information, including medal event outcomes, to platforms like Alexa.
The following year, the Washington Post used Heliograf to produce another 850 stories, mostly to do with election coverage and high school football game results. The Post had been using Heliograf to not only write accurate, stat-based articles, but also to alert the newsroom when election results started trending in an unexpected direction, giving reporters lead time to thoroughly cover the news.
Bloomberg and Financial Times are also using AI to detect trends in news articles which analyses the frequency of keywords and phrases. It allows them to swiftly pinpoint emerging trends in real-time to select the most vital and relevant stories for their users.
Natural Language Generation (NLG) technology, a software process driven by artificial intelligence, is being used by media giants such as The Washington Post, Bloomberg, and the Associated Press and has enabled them to automatically produce news stories based on structured data, like reports on topics like sports stats and company earnings.
There has also been a rise of AI-powered fact-checking solutions as a direct response to the erosion of trust in the news due to the rampant spread of misinformation on social media platforms.
Even as far back as 2016, the Associated Press used fact checking tools to verify the accuracy of Donald Trump’s claims about his tax returns. In 2017, similar tools by were used by the Washington Post to analyse images and videos circulating on social media during the Parkland school shooting.
AI Will Not Replace Journalists
AI has been used in journalism for the past few decades in different capacities and it hasn’t put an end to it yet.
Even though the newest generation of AI-powered tools are far more advanced than those that have been previously used, there will always be a need for journalists.
At its core, Genesis leverages the capabilities of artificial intelligence to process vast amounts of data and information about current events or specific topics and transform them into full-fledged articles. By doing so, it aims to act as an invaluable assistant to journalists, streamlining their workflow, automating repetitive tasks, and even proposing captivating headlines.
But it is no secret that AI has a tendency to hallucinate and just make stuff up, while sounding very convincing. Journalism will always need a real person behind an article to do the actual fact-checking and fine tune the copy. But AI can make the process faster and more streamlined by not only getting the ball rolling, but flagging what needs to be checked and pointing the writer in the right direction toward supporting evidence.
The truth is, current large language models (LLMs), like ChatGPT, or Google’s Bard are able to take information and produce technically well-written and grammatically correct passages, which makes it great a tool for getting a head start on an article, as well as helping to edit. The new Genesis, which has been kept under wraps, will presumably have Internet access and be able to take breaking news, trending topics, current events and create articles from the information it scrapes from the web without as much input and prompting as is required for other LLMs.
But any journalist thinking that an AI program is coming for their job doesn’t have to worry just yet.
AI writing tends to be about as lifeless as a bag of stale chips with the emotional depth of a bowl of potato salad, that’s not to mention an absence of literary subtleties, imaginative flair and human creativity.
Genesis is yet another great example of how AI is becoming widespread in all aspects of our lives. People must adapt or risk being replaced, not by AI, but by those who have embraced the new technology.