Editorial: AI and SunStar at 41

Editorial: AI and SunStar at 41
Editorial Cartoon by Enrico Santisas

Artificial intelligence. It’s either a blessing or a curse, but one thing is sure: The conversation around it has been so intense that Collins Dictionary named its abbreviation “AI” the Word of the Year for 2023.

It’s in this environment that SunStar finds itself as it turns 41 today, Nov. 25.

The buffeting from that other double-edged sword—the digital revolution that has made a publisher out of anyone with a social media account—is not even over yet, and here streaks AI with the threat of destruction not only of jobs and industries but of mankind itself, no less.

The media industry is no stranger to the violent winds of change. But this may be the cruelest cut of all: machines that can edit, write, draw, mimic human speech and likeness such that avatars presenting the news have even been asked out on more dates than the harried, real journalists furiously thumping on the computer keys to produce the stories that the avatars present.

Could there be a worse insult? Well, yes.

That AI-generated content being monetized by first adopters is the fruit of the scraping of the work of legitimate writers and journalists—without credit or compensation to these hapless writers.

So what does this legacy newspaper do? Just keep going, forging ahead.

No one saw the Internet coming when SunStar Daily (now SunStar Cebu) put out its first newspaper issue in 1982. The birth date of the Internet was still months away on Jan. 1, 1983.

But SunStar jumped into the fray, becoming the first community newspaper in the country to publish a website in 1996, livestream an event in 2009 and produce a webcast in 2013.

It has embraced the digital revolution, introducing web shows in quick succession—some that censure the corrupt and incompetent, others that celebrate small business, deliver public service, and dish out relationship advice, an eyeful of celebrities, and the youth’s thoughts on viral topics.

Its website, sunstar.com.ph, debuted a new look last Oct. 13—chic and engaging, as SunStar, with its network of community papers nationwide, also continues to reach out on social media to its millions of readers, listeners and viewers on Facebook, X, Instagram, TikTok, Threads, YouTube and Spotify.

But through it all, it has preserved its print legacy, adopting white paper last April 26 for a restyled reader experience, and recycled paper on Sundays from July on a limited run to raise awareness on environmental concerns.

But what about AI? It’s become a companion of SunStar, speeding up the more mundane processes in the editing cycle. But the media group steers clear of AI’s generative aspects—for the pitfalls of copyright infringement and hallucination that come with them.

Yes, AI systems “hallucinate,” meaning they can produce false information.

At the World Association of News Publishers Newsroom Summit in Oslo, Norway last October, Markus Knall, chief editor and content director at Ippen Digital, Germany, said AI is especially likely to fabricate dates, names, numbers, facts and quotes.

This is probably why another dictionary, Cambridge Dictionary, chose “hallucinate” as its Word of the Year for 2023. The Cambridge Dictionary team said it chose the word to show that while generative AI is a powerful tool, it has its weaknesses.

“AI hallucinations remind us that humans still need to bring their critical thinking skills to the use of these tools,” the Cambridge team said.

At 41, SunStar is clear-eyed in its writing and its goal: To distribute accurate, timely and reliable information on a variety of platforms to reach its diverse audiences where they are.

From SunStar, there will be no hallucinations, only the truth.


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