AI: For better or for worse

Here is disability land, we talk a lot about assistive technology or AT. AT can be as simple as something […]

Jane McClure headshot

Here is disability land, we talk a lot about assistive technology or AT. AT can be as simple as something attached to a pencil for an easier grip. It can be as complex as some kind of robot to help with daily tasks. (And some of us may have enjoyed the TV show Lost in Space a bit too much and still dream of having our own robot.)

We at Access Press have always had an interest in the latest developments in AT. So many things have made so many lives easier. We can do our work and live more independent lives.

And it’s interesting to note that a lot of the AT we rely on has found its way into mainstream daily life from the lives of those of us with disabilities. Look at speech-to-text software and audiobooks as just two examples. We were also among the early users of virtual meeting software.

At the same time, we as journalists look carefully at another acronym, AI or artificial intelligence. With newsrooms slashing budgets and staff, AI becomes a way to provide content.

Very broadly put, AI is the capability of a computer system to perform tasks typically requiring human-level intelligence. In the world of journalism, which is most commonly generative AI. That type of a system generates text, images and audio.

We readers of news websites and newspapers usually can quickly spot AI when things go haywire. We’ve seen some really obvious AI-generated content, with word usage errors, oddball typographical errors, or worse, content that is offensive.

And of course, shadowing the entire AI debate is that it is being used to replace journalists on a less costly basis.

But several surveys have shown that AI has worked its way into several newsrooms. One recent survey showed that 90 percent of newsrooms are already using some form of AI in news production, 80 percent in news distribution, and 75 percent in news gathering. News gathering tasks include automated transcription and translation, which I use from time to time.

News production tasks done with may include proofreading, writing headlines, or writing full articles. That in my experience is where we see pitfalls. We’ve had readers send letters or commentary prepared with AI.

As an editor, I always appreciate a heads-up when AI is used. I am more vigilant about typos and word usage.

What we may have interest in here at Access Press is news distribution, and looking at such tools as AI-driven search engine optimization. We already tailor our content to a specific audience – Minnesotans with disabilities. Could AI help us with that further? It merits exploring.

There’s an interesting website called JournalismAI. It’s an initiative from Polis, the London School of Economics and Political Science’s journalism think tank. It is supported by the Google News Initiative. Learn more at https://www.journalismai.info/

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