The entry of the internet in the mid-1990s left most in the news industry clueless. It wasn’t until years later with the rise of text messaging and websites that they took notice and started to talk about it.
The recent outcry in the industry and in the academe about the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) sportscasters by the GMA Integrated News was so unlike the uninterested and unconcerned stance of the media to the internet at its birth.
The forums and discussions that took place from 1994 when the internet was born in the Philippines to the early 2000s were mostly about the technology, the world wide web, and the information superhighway. Many news managers and owners thought the internet was a fad, something fleeting, and easily dismissed it as one that would never replace the news or them. These individuals belong to newspaper and broadcast organizations that we now call legacy media in this age of Facebook, YouTube and TikTok.
Their reaction was mostly dismissive of the internet because they were confident the news industry would be unchanged and not be replaced by digital. Their position was that the internet would not grow, was not a serious medium and was a passing fancy.
We now know they were wrong and that unprepared news companies were forced to move to digital without discussion, strategy, or careful study when the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic struck and everyone moved online.
Lucky were those better-positioned organizations that moved to digital albeit at a pace slower than ideal. Reasons for the dawdling were a lack of appreciation of the internet’s potential and the competing priorities in running the media business. Even so, many who have transformed themselves to digital are playing catch-up in terms of new revenue streams on online platforms.
After GMA introduced its AI sportscasters last week, journalist organizations and groups in the academe were among those who reacted negatively, reminding the television network to consider the plight and future of their journalists and other media workers. Correctly they pointed out that any innovation should have clear goals and benefits to the organization, personnel and other resources included.
To add to that, more than pointing out the gains, news organizations must be able to measure results to show that the innovation has attained its goals. New metrics and performance indicators have to be designed as more journalists and newsrooms adopt AI tools.
It shouldn’t be about doing AI because the competition is doing it or you want to be the first. It shouldn’t also be about wishing AI will not grow and, thus, you will not have to innovate.
AI will grow and will continue to impact the news industry and other industries. The best action would be to discuss its potential in the organization and its use by journalists and to set the policy to guide the acceptance of AI.