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AI in Media: Define or Be Defined

AI in Media: Define or Be Defined

Why local broadcasters must stay ahead of the technology curve

The reluctance of broadcasters to accelerate the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) is not without justification. A complex labyrinth of risks lies ahead, ranging from potential legal nightmares to perceived threats to product quality and the attendant danger to brand reputation. Resource challenges are also formidable. Moreover, a consumer base already skeptical of news organizations in general is suspicious of AI’s role in the newsroom.

Consequently, many in the industry have only dipped their toes in the AI waters, while others have entirely sidestepped the revolution. This conservative approach is justifiable, but it cannot continue indefinitely. If local media organizations don’t move with haste to define how their human resources will optimize their performance with AI, AI will define how their human resources are optimized.

Keeping ahead of the curve is vital

The impact of AI on businesses, as various studies have prognosticated, will be immense, precipitating widescale economic disruption and job displacement. But broadcasters need not concern themselves with these projections. A quick look at the landscape today without even considering technology makes it easy to see: Stations are already smaller than in the past and getting smaller. Without significant innovation, industry dynamics will continue to put pressure on costs and resources, whether AI becomes a part of the operating model or not. So why not invest in defining and using tailored, customized solutions that can dramatically increase efficiency and product quality?

The customization process will be time-consuming and labor-intensive, which lends urgency to broadcasters’ need to adopt AI in meaningful, strategic ways. The goal here is not a race to see who can use AI solutions like ChatGPT or Bard fastest in their newsrooms. For all the bluster about the capabilities of these Large Language Models (LLMs), they’re really not that smart out of the box. They’re not sentient. They can’t think. They fill in blanks similar to the text completion you use every day on your smartphones and tablets, albeit in a much more sophisticated manner.

The public has also discerned the limitations of AI. After a mad rush to OpenAI’s ChatGPT made it the fastest-adopted technology in human history, visits fell off as users wondered, “What do I actually do with this?”

AI can’t answer that question. Humans need to answer that question and then be meticulous about how their tools are trained, what data and inputs inform the desired outputs, and how they will interact with it to achieve the efficiency and quality nirvana that is so often touted. As the adage goes:  garbage in, garbage out. This has never been truer than with AI. Broadcasters will need to be intentional and disciplined while using customized tools, or the effort won’t add up to much more than headaches.

The flip side to the challenging customization process is massive potential. AI could help journalists, salespeople, leaders and others significantly enhance their businesses without adding to a sea of sameness, opening the door to legal liability, or adversely impacting brands.

Wordsmiths hold an advantage

In fact, the need to direct AI tools and technology in refined ways may actually put broadcasters in an enviable position, given their skill in communicating. Whereas directing technology used to strictly be the domain of programmers, the natural language basis of AI gives an advantage to those — like journalists — who are good with words.

According to Magid research, an increase in AI literacy results in greater consumer acceptance and enthusiasm towards AI utilization in journalism. Broadcasters would undoubtedly benefit from embracing this sentiment.

Implementing such sweeping changes will indeed be a challenging task, redefining skill sets, resources and tools within local stations. However, with proactive planning and steadfast determination, broadcasters could herald a new era of relevance and prosperity via AI integration.

This post was originally published as a guest column for Broadcasting + Cable.

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