The Era of Artificial Journalism

Brutal revolution threatens the business model left to the press

"'Ultra-intelligent' robot that uses AI answers questions and writes texts by itself." This is how, between dazzled and simple, Folha reported its first impressions about ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence tool that revolutionizes, threatens, or opens a new dimension in the relationship between the human species and machines. The phrase seems to be taken from a science fiction episode from the 1970s. It would be interesting to know if the robot, a chatbot for those more familiar with it, would know how to write in a dated fiction style, taking into account, for example, a sense of imagination fueled by 1960's TV series. Everything around here always arrived late.

Not anymore. The first public experience, on a large scale, of a device capable of generating content and proposing problem solutions was launched worldwide at the end of November. Folha's first test was to ask the chat for two hypothetical reports: Brazil's victory over France in the Qatar Football World Cup final and, something even more unlikely, the presidential inauguration, answering whether Jair Bolsonaro would hand the presidential sash over to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The account of the game obtained is so scholarly written that Neymar is called Neymar Jr.

"The Brazilian team celebrated its victory with joy, being greeted by millions of fans around the country." The sentence is second only in naivety to that of the following article: "The current president, Jair Bolsonaro, was present at the ceremony and handed over the presidential sash to his successor, showing respect for the democratic process and the position he holds."

Any journalist at the beginning of his career would be skeptical of Neymar and Bolsonaro, who, by the way, yielded almost nothing after the newspaper published the news. The machine, however, learns.

Of the many risks and wonders that the new technology promises to provide, one theme, in particular, has been little explored in the media: the effect on itself. If the robot can write essays and university-level papers, poetry, and do complex calculations, it is reasonable to imagine that it will handle professional journalistic pieces in a short time. The press will have to adapt, like the rest of society, but there is a big dark cloud on the horizon: who will need content produced by journalistic vehicles when the search engine itself is capable of generating it? A considerable part of the sites is dependent on traffic from search engines. As already mentioned in this column, this is what explains the profusion of literal titles, the "understand why", "Learn how" etc. Structured newspapers, such as Folha, have teams dedicated to the analysis and prospecting of the audience. And even with all that, the competition is unfair, not because of competitors, but because of the discretion of technology companies.

No wonder, several countries are approving compulsory remuneration for the use of journalistic material. It is symptomatic that Microsoft has extended the name of its search engine, Bing, to its chatbot, despite the disastrous results at its debut.

The prognosis is also not encouraging in the field of disinformation. If robots just hammering out old wives' tales already mess up elections, one can only imagine what can happen with the leap in capacity.
One executive said that artificial intelligence will do boring work in a world of falling demographics (hard to swallow that one in the land of subpar employment). It is easier to believe that Big Techs are making noise to give authority to still incompetent machines, as The Guardian newspaper wrote in an editorial.

Even if it takes some time for the robots to understand that Neymar is not unanimous, perhaps only professional journalism has the intelligence to, as soon as possible, return to writing for people, not for algorithms.


"The last drop of Shell oil in the world will come out of Brazil, says the company's president." The title was published by O Estado de S. Paulo on Wednesday (15). While in Europe the discussion is the exceptional profit of companies in the sector, which scales the delay in the transition to clean energy, the news here is the longevity of oil extraction.

There is no arguing the fact that pre-salt production is strategic or that the country will remain one of the last suppliers of dirty energy, as someone will have to do it. What is impressive is the naturality with which the issue is addressed, as if there were no unprecedented climate crisis underway, as if Brazil belonged on another planet.

The article is laudatory and even delicate points such as the Equatorial Margin are analyzed coldly. To Folha, Pakistani activist Ayisha Siddiqa, 24, declared that young people will "concentrate on confronting the fossil fuel industry". It will be them because the rest insist on living in past eras.

Translated by Cassy Dias