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Navigating the ethical landscape of generative AI and journalism

July 6, 2023 | By DCN

At the 2023 Collision Conference, held June 26-30 in Toronto Canada, DCN’s editorial director Michelle Manafy sat down with three media executives to discuss the ethics of using generative AI in journalism. The conversation covered the evolution of AI and its usage in the media, up to today’s much-discussed generative AI tools. Panelists weighed in on a range of use cases and where they would – or would not – permit (or even encourage) the use of generative AI in their media organizations. They also discussed whether or not generative AI is an existential threat to journalism, journalists — and even humanity as a whole. Listen to the discussion here and/or read a few highlights below.

Navigating the ethical landscape of generative AI and journalism


  • Gideon Lichfield – Global Editorial Director, Wired
  • Harry McCracken – Global Technology Editor, Fast Company
  • Traci Mabrey – Head of News, Factiva
  • Michelle Manafy – Editorial Director, Digital Content Next

A few highlights from the panel discussion:

Traci Mabrey: We’ve been using [machine learning and AI] forever and that’s a really important component as we look at this. This new horizon is going to be something, and I don’t think any of us know exactly what that is yet. But we have been using the building blocks of it for quite some time…

Gideon Lichfield: I think what’s changed is that it now has the capability to produce something that looks like something humans would create from scratch. And I emphasize looks like because it’s very clear that what’s going on is imitation the fact that it became available as an easy to use interface was really crucial… this technology was around already for a few years, but it wasn’t that easy to access. The big change last year was just that it became easy to access…

Michelle Manafy: We’ve heard of late that some big tech leaders, some really smart folks call generative AI an existential threat. Are we afraid? Should we be afraid? And I don’t just mean as the media. You guys all think about larger issues in society. Is this good? Is it bad? Should we all be scared?

Harry McCracken: I think the worrying about it blowing up the world or killing us all is a little overwrought, particularly because there’s a pretty long list of genuine concerns that are either an issue right now or pretty clearly will be over the next few years involving things like misinformation. There are huge privacy concerns with a handful of large companies grabbing all our data and synthesizing that for their own benefit. I’d say there are plenty of things to worry about with A.I… but destroying the world might be more like the way that social media has, in a lot of ways, degraded the human experience…

Gideon Lichfield: the increasing volume of just sheer garbage that is out there that is going to be generated by AI: that’s a that’s a real worry. And the job displacement part is also a thing that I worry about. But I think there is a way to use it. There is a way to use A.I. that empowers people, gives them extra tools. But it’s also a great temptation for companies, for employers to simply look at it as a way to save costs…

Harry McCracken: …Journalism is unusual in that the writing is the product. Most of the writing that exists in the world is not the product, just the byproduct. There are a lot of cases where having a computer draft your internal memo or whatever makes a lot of sense and will fill you up to do more important things…

Traci Mabrey: I think if we look at our journalists and our editors around the world, there’s a very personal scope that goes into everything somebody is writing and somebody is speaking about. And I think that’s a really big component when you look at it. The technology, as Gideon was saying, it is bringing up a set of words. It’s able to make 500 words on X topic regarding this. But that is not the way that I would infuse that information into the world. And it’s not those types of things that make organic journalism and all of the real nuggets that we get from it… I think for the drafting process and the information gathering, certainly saving a lot of time. But we’re certainly on the path of that being a still a very personal end product.

Learn more about how media leaders are developing their policies around the usage of AI and generative AI in their organizations:

Media organizations grapple with developing AI policies

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