By Michelle McIntyre
A panel of business journalists gathered at Microsoft in Mountain View, Calif., last night as part of a San Francisco Press Club event to discuss how generative AI has affected their jobs.
One participant, Michael Nuñez of VentureBeat made bold predictions. He’s an advocate of using GenAI regularly at work. The other participants seemed to have more of a ‘proceed with caution’ attitude.
Nuñez predicted that Generative AI will be bigger than Google.
He went even bolder saying that GenAI is as big as the smartphone.
On top of that he quipped, “In one year AI will have touched every aspect of the journalism process.” Yes, he used the word, “every.”
Nuñez went into detail about how he uses AI as sort of a smart intern to do some research and writing to save him and his team time. He and the others agreed that it’s important to edit and fact check all AI work.
They also agreed that prose could be biased.
Although most of their newsroom teams were using generative artificial intelligence (AI) in some way and already had guidelines for its use, none thought that AI would replace them in their jobs in the next five years.
In addition to Nuñez, the journalist panelists were Mr. Boone Ashworth of WIRED, Krystal Hu of Reuters, Julie Jammot of Agence Free Press, Mr. Chris Matyszczyk contributor to CNET and ZDNet, Ben Pimentel of San Francisco Examiner, and Jon Swartz of Marketwatch. Rachel Metz, now with Bloomberg, moderated.
100 Million Downloads in Two Months
It was nice to walk into the event with the Reuters group, by chance, since we arrived at the same time. What a beautiful campus by the way. I was happy to get to know Krystal Hu a bit since I had been frequently quoting data from her GenAI story several times recently in business conversations.
Hu had written that ChatGPT, the most popular flavor of GenAI, had the fastest growing user base of any consumer app. It achieved 100 million downloads in two months. This is faster than both Netflix and TikTok.
Have a ‘Wild West’ mentality when using GenAI
Panelists advised the audience to keep in mind that AI could produce misinformation, and it is helpful to have an AI-use company guidelines.
Jon Swartz said you have to deal with GenAI with a ‘Wild West’ mentality because it’s something new.
He added that he likes talking to other humans in the newsroom to brainstorm clever phrases. He said, AI can’t do this.
AI Needs to Lighten Up
My thoughts mirror Swartz’s. We’re in Wild West territory. I asked Bing chat to write me a biography and it was good but not special. It referenced five sources, but it didn’t have that special pizazz or flare.
Like I might write, “Michelle likes tossing tennis balls to her big dog, Ringo.” If Bing were clever and funny, it would have added that to my bio. However, I was impressed that Bing spelled out the word “veteran.” It said, “McIntyre is an IBM veteran.” That’s more proper than “vet.” I always write, “vet.”
Why Delegate Something that’s Fun to Do?
AFP’s Julie Jammot said that she’d never want AI to replace the main writing that she does, calling that task fun. She said that the problem with AI writing is that the language is too uniform.
Columnist Chris Matyszczyk offered clever quips summarizing his attitude which was that AI is sort of badly useful. He mentioned misinformation a few times, and others readily agreed with his points.
Boone Ashworth said that WIRED did a good job at laying out their use of AI guidelines. Most of the others on the panel said their newsrooms have guidelines as well. Ashworth seemed the most chill about using AI. For example, he said, it can be useful if you need to ask AI for a recipe of what dish to make as a meal.
Attribute or Don’t Attribute? That is the Question.
There was disagreement about whether or not a story needs to have AI attribution. That means putting, “Written by AI.” Most said it’s essential that AI be mentioned in attribution for many reasons. Nunez disagreed saying, it is just a tool. You wouldn’t note that Adobe Photoshop was used to make an image.
Krystal Hu from Reuters smartly brought up the infamous “stop progress letter.” She said, “The smartest minds are ringing the alarm on AI.” Ben Pimentel added that a pause in advancement is not practical, but it is good that the letter generated conversation.
The president of San Francisco Press Club, Curtis Sparrer of Bospar, introduced the panelists and Microsoft executives served as gracious hosts with warm welcomes, intelligent remarks and a nice food and beverage spread.
Michelle McIntyre is a Silicon Valley public relations consultant, IBM veteran, and head of editorial content for PRSA SV. She’s a ranked future of work influencer who likes to play fetch with her big dog Ringo. Photo descriptions: 1) Entire panel with ‘AI’ on the screen in the back. Credit: San Francisco Press Club 2) Curtis of Bospar with a microphone 3) Jon of Marketwatch and Julie of AFP, the side of Rachel’s face 4) Boone of WIRED with the navy shirt 5) Chris with a gray t-shirt 6) Ben of SF Examiner with the green shirt
Photos 2-6 were taken by Michelle McIntyre with her new iPhone 14 Pro. Watch the entire panel discussion by visiting this link.