ChatGPT and the Impending Demise of Content Journalism

It seems every day now we are inundated with reports on how AI is going to replace us and how the world as we know it is coming to an end. It’s not exactly news to anyone who has been at least vaguely aware of or interested in how these algorithms of artificial intelligence were being developed. For instance, back when I was still a spring chicken and I was learning to play the game of Go, it was commonly understood that computers would never come close to the human level of expertise in this game, let alone become superior. ‘Hold my beer and watch this’, said the crew of DeepMind. 

Well, it didn’t take long; though it was difficult, if not impossible, to predict. That’s because powerful paradigm shifts are non-linear in nature. The progress leading up to massive breakthroughs may be iterative and linear, but once a critical discovery or development is made, things go out of whack and throw the world into a bout of anxiety. After all, we have long anticipated that automation will come to replace some jobs and that certain professions will inevitably become obsolete. However, we took solace in an understanding that the tipping point was decades away. What is more, many people with cosy middle-class jobs in journalism, marketing, law, design, banking etc., were convinced that the glacially advancing march of automation would never come close to threatening their livelihoods.  

And now the genie is out of the bottle, as with the advent of language algorithms (e.g. ChatGPT), image generation models and others, it is not the cashier at your local supermarket who finds himself under existential threat. Suddenly, the entire industry of content creation faces extinction at the hands of AI, which came out of nowhere and proved that soon we will no longer require services of writers, designers, video editors and other freelance content creators because Skynet can do it better, quicker and cheaper.  

Make no mistake: this marks the beginning of an industrial revolution to which we will have to adapt. Unfortunate as it may seem, the shoe is on the other foot and now it is the journalist – who just a few years ago would pen piles of patronizing verbiage telling former coal miners whose jobs were outsourced to China they should learn to code and move on with the times – who needs to ‘learn to code’, or re-train and apply themselves elsewhere.  

However, all hope is not lost yet because with this sudden paradigm shift comes an opportunity to recalibrate and re-orient ourselves in this space. The emergence of artificial language models capable of passing the bar or writing a strongly worded letter to your landlord on your behalf doesn’t necessarily spell the death of writing as a profession. Unfortunately, we cannot go on as though nothing had happened and pretend the landscape has not shifted. It has. ChatGPT is more than capable of writing a thousand-word listicle about ten movies to watch in anticipation of Fast X and it only takes some training in prompt engineering to make it look publishable, all in the span of twenty minutes. Therefore, I am sorry to report, but – dear listicle creator – your services are no longer needed because someone at Buzzfeed can do it without asking you or paying you.  

This is a blessing in disguise, though, as long as we all collectively take a long hard look at ourselves in the mirror and think about what we contribute to the cultural discourse with our writing. If all you ever do is create content in hopes of generating social media engagement, online clout or attention of film studios willing to give you freebies in exchange for marketing of their products to the masses, then the time is now to make a change. Have a look at your film reviews. Your essays. Your… listicles. Do you have a voice? Do you have anything to say through your writing? 

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, then I can only implore you to get busy living and work on developing your own voice because in the age where content will be (and a lot of it already is) written by artificial intelligence, readership will have no other recourse but to gravitate to your writing because they would find your own voice and perspective interesting. They can get their facts elsewhere. They can learn that Peter Pan and Wendy is scintillating from an AI-generated pile of schlock stuffed on a mass-produced website and layered with ads. What AI will not tell them is why this movie excited you and how it related to your outlook on the world or life in general.  

I’d like to imagine that the era of soulless writing is slowly coming to an end and that film writers will have to start working on their personalities to survive. I see the advent of ChatGPT as a net positive, because I am sick and tired of reading unreadable reviews, monotonous features and braindead listicles concocted by people who probably could write better if they cared about their craft and their voice more than their social media clout.  

So, I suggest you do the following. Bin all your listicle ideas. They were braindead anyway. Look at the last few reviews or essays you wrote and think if they are worth reading. Because a year from now, the quickly shifting landscape of film journalism may no longer look fondly on articles written without a voice. AI will have covered this space faster than you can possibly imagine. The market will quickly become saturated with content generated for free and without breaking a sweat so you might as well start aiming higher. 

Stop creating content. 

Write words worth reading. Tell me why movies excite you. Tell me why they anger you. Tell me how they make you think about other things. Tell me more about those things. Reel me in with your imagination. Show me how you see the world. I’m here to read your text in your voice.  

If you can’t do this now, work on it.  

And meanwhile, you might as well learn to code in Python. Just in case.


One thought on “ChatGPT and the Impending Demise of Content Journalism

  1. Pingback: Can ChatGPT Help You Get Better at Writing? | Flasz On Film

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