Will artificial intelligence (AI) soon replace journalists? Many have been asking this question since the boom of generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, which can write a high school essay, a poem, or even pass a medical licensing exam in a matter of seconds.
Now, AI tools are seeping into newsrooms. CNET, an American tech news outlet, has acknowledged using AI to write financial articles, seemingly as early as November 2022.
When looking more closely at the articles on CNET, a disclaimer reads: "This article was assisted by an AI engine and reviewed, fact-checked and edited by our editorial staff".
However, CNET announced last week it would pause its AI publishing experiment after spotting factual errors in articles.
"We identified additional stories that required correction, with a small number requiring substantial correction and several stories with minor issues," Connie Guglielmo, CNET's editor-in-chief, said in a statement.
Futurism, an online news outlet claims that the AI not only made errors but also substantially plagiarised the articles of other journalists.
CNET did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.
To what extent could newsrooms use AI?
Although the technology is still in its infancy, multiple AI experts believe newsrooms could benefit from the use of ChatGPT and similar tools.
"The areas where we could use AI are very limited, but they exist and we should see where it could be in our interest to use generative AI," said Ariane Bernard, project lead for data at the International News Media Association.
"I think that we should look at non-political and non-controversial subjects, not areas that really touch society in a meaningful way. Like lifestyle, which is not as contentious. If an AI gives bad advice on how to carry out DIY, it’s probably OK," Bernard told Euronews.
Buzzfeed is the latest example of that. The news outlet is reportedly also planning to use artificial intelligence to personalise and enhance its online quizzes.
"We are not using AI to generate content; it's a tool some of our quiz writers are using to apply it to an entirely new quiz format," said a Buzzfeed spokesperson.
"All our quizzes remain written by humans, in this new format AI will be applied to the quiz results to change and enhance the quiz experience, creating an infinite number of possible responses".
Can AI replace journalists?
Should we be worried about artificial intelligence writing the articles we read online?
Gael Breton, the digital marketing and SEO expert who first spotted CNET's use of AI, thinks it's time for everyone to start adapting to this new technology.
"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," he told Euronews.
"I think we need to understand how it works, learn how to use it - because there's no way we can get rid of it".
Breton believes it will be up to Google and other search engines to sift through human and AI-generated content and reward the former when it comes to which articles appear first when users search for information.
Breton says he compared how Google was referencing human writers versus AI-generated content by CNET, and that reporters were vastly outperforming AI text in Google search results.
"AI cannot output an article on a major website today without human oversight, so we're not at the point where editors will get rid of human writers and replace them with AI," he said.
Eddie Kim, CEO of Memo, a company that uses AI to analyse new articles, believes that it's the evergreen and informational content that will be most at risk.
"The power of the editorial publishers will endure. So much of the product that premium publishers offer is their masthead and authority. The same words living elsewhere simply don’t carry the same weight or prominence," Kim told Euronews.
"Everyone could just write their own articles about themselves. This has parallels to the great promise of blogging forever disrupting journalism that never came to fruition".