Recent developments on the ethics and politics of artificial intelligence (AI) have sprung about headline after headline. In the field of journalism, it is now used in image generation, voice synthesis, written content generation, and most recently, in the form of AI sportscasters. While technological advancements are welcome, netizens and journalists alike met AI with mixed reactions, prompting questions about its regulation in journalism.
It is in these instances of unbridled AI capabilities that it becomes clear how media institutions employ their inhumane ways to gain more profit. The present juncture of AI necessitates journalists to come together, championing journalistic integrity and uniting under the banner of truth.
Technology’s convenience can supposedly aid journalists through pattern recognition to spot irregularities, link ties between articles, and most commonly, cross-reference sources. Yet, the existing relationship between media corporations and their profit-driven interest often leads to the use of technology to maximize wealth at the expense of journalistic integrity.
Under the guise of innovation in journalism, media elites expedite AI’s helping hand to increase labor for less pay. More than that, mainstream journalism, which supposedly touts integrity in reporting, is tainted with editorial bias that clings to more profitable partisan coverage—a partisanship that is strengthened by AI’s capacity to mine data and shape echo chambers. Using AI without regard for its regulation further undermines journalistic authority.
Technologies play a significant role in shaping the core elements of content creation and public perception, as supported by sociologist Thorstein Veblen's theory of technological determinism. AI’s content curation and generation become integral determinants of how and what the public consumes. As a consequence, the supposed uncompromisable role of journalists is jeopardized by technologies beholden to profit-hungry media conglomerates.
Media elites continue to reign in the already deteriorating state of journalism in the Philippines. By minimizing the primary role of journalists in crafting critical reportage for the public, the press will be further marred by the endemic corruption within the Philippine media landscape. This is the result of the commercialization of news, as discussed by journalist Chay Hofilena in her book “News for Sale.”
The upward trend of commercialized journalism over critical reporting has simultaneously damaged the integrity of media and perpetuated a counter-critical approach to issues of utmost gravity. The convenient, cheap, and instantaneous character of AI would fulfill a role in promoting this existing culture.
If AI were to frontline truth in an age of instability, its machine learning could cause real harm to communities by blurring between fact and fiction. Considering the Philippines’s ongoing battle against misinformation in media, AI could exacerbate the problem tenfold. AI images, for instance, have become more realistic to the point that a person unfamiliar with AI may easily accept AI-generated propaganda as fact.
In times of crisis, critical journalists have proved that they continue to fight for the truth. AI, considering its novelty and lack of ethical codes, cannot say the same. Ethical regulation especially in the meticulous and relentless practice of AI in journalism must be standardized. The integration of AI must be done with careful consideration of the currently fractured and polarized state of information in media. As it stands, journalism is a human endeavor that can be aided through AI but can never be replaced by it.
Tech and Truth
Journalists can leverage AI to enhance alternative media as a response to the shortcomings of their mainstream counterparts. Luis Teodoro, Altermidya founding chair, argued that corporate-dominated media will always fall short of serving the public interest. Yet as integrity is the journalist’s currency, it is imperative more than ever to mobilize media workers to uphold critical reporting no matter the circumstance.
In response to the growing commercialization of Philippine media, Teodoro spearheaded alternative forms of reporting that reflected the reality of the political unrest in the nation. Alternative outlets are by and for the people, and with them come nuanced perspectives unconventional to the mainstream.
Ultimately, it is not a matter of mainstream versus alternative, nor journalists versus AI, but a matter of preserving and asserting the journalist’s role in fulfilling its duties to the public. Granting journalists more agency by providing them the freedom to report and stable working conditions could possibly restore public confidence in the profession. Through the lens of the Writers Guild of America Strike last May 2023, writers sought AI safeguards because of wage reduction concerns partly due to AI scriptwriting.
A unified stance among journalists is urgent—one that considers the delicate landscape of our time. If AI is to be employed, it should be under the guidance of journalists who represent the concerns of the majority, rather than the elites who only feign to do so. Through being the envoy of truth, the journalist, selfless in nature, upholds the mantle of responsible journalism while armed with the power to foster transformative change. It is crucial to recognize truth not merely as a shield for defense but as a formidable weapon to strike down deceit. ●
A correction was made on Nov. 30, 2023: In an earlier version of this article, Luis V. Teodoro was misattributed to be the founder of Altermidya. The correct title should read founding chair.
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