Safeguarding the Pillars of AI for All

Chanelle Risberg


why failing to regulate the era of aI puts the very essence of creative work at risk


Generative AI. The star of the moment. The one topic no one can avoid.

The ongoing discourse surrounding AI is critical but equally, very important. We recently attended the annual Tom Olsen Lecture to hear Editor-in-Chief of Press Gazette, Dominic Ponsford, dissect the state of journalism in the UK amidst the sweeping adoption of generative AI.

And there’s no better place to scrutinise the impact of AI than at St. Bride’s Church. Located in London’s former journalistic heartland of Fleet Street, St Bride’s holds significance to the rise and subsequent downfall of traditional media in the UK.

Generative AI, powered by advanced algorithms, has become a powerful tool in the creative world. It has the ability to generate content at an unprecedented speed and efficiency, allowing creatives to focus on more important aspects of their work.

However, the AI storm is fast approaching, and it’s to us – journalists, media professionals, and the people – to ensure that it is weathered responsibly. The big question is: are we being replaced? And my rebuttal to that is, can we even be replaced to begin with?

For more on that, check out my recent piece summarising London Tech Week where I underlined human intelligence as one of the few irreplaceable things within the digital era → The Latest Trends from the World of Tech.

Let’s continue. Much like Dominic, I’m of the opinion that AI can be embraced as a tool for good while remaining vigilant about its potential pitfalls. This means taking steps to mitigate biases in AI algorithms, prioritising transparency in AI-driven news recommendations, and ensuring ethical and accurate reporting. And because these things are not yet in place, it’s time to sound the alarm.

Dominic emphasised how digitalisation, as a whole, has caused the largest dent on a regional level. Technology means a smaller number of local journalists cover a lot of ground. Those that remain do an amazing job and there are some impressive local news titles remaining. But the fact is there has been a huge decline in professional independent local journalism – from more than 13,000 regional journalists to possibly just a few thousand left. Something which he describes as ‘a tragedy for people in many communities who no longer have a voice’.

According to the BBC, over 200 local papers have closed in the UK since 2005. With staff cuts, centralised newsrooms, sub-editing and printers re-located miles from local communities, press benches in councils and courtrooms have been left increasingly empty. An estimated 58% of the country has no daily or regional title and rural areas are increasingly reliant on London-based media and their own social networks for local news.

As we listened intently, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of urgency. This was only heightened during the Q&A when a journalist in the crowd recounted a situation in which a prospective employer asked for her consent to essentially rely on generative AI in news story creation to ”free up time and focus on other tasks”. Let’s just say eyebrows were raised across the pews but when I think about it, was anyone genuinely surprised?

Issues arise when creativity is treated as something which can be done with little to no thought. Without proactive efforts to regulate the era of AI, we put the very essence of creative work at risk. This also begs the question of how we perceive, and subsequently (de)value, creative professions?

Press Gazette’s recent survey found the UK has the second lowest levels of trust in the press. In a climate where UK media has little trust amongst the population due to bias, misinformation etc., are we really in a position to further alienate readers? Using AI to focus on more important aspects of their work leads me to ask, what is currently being ranked more important? This to me, reinforces the idea that the UK is still in deep water trying to help a struggling industry disrupted by the digital revolution.

Without trust, accountability and fact-checking within the profession, we send a powerful message that quality does not matter. As pointed out in the lecture, respect and responsibility is earned. AI doesn’t seem to be held to the same standard whilst already replacing what we consider ‘menial’ tasks. By raising the standards of what we deem valuable and, quite frankly, good, we can build a world where professional skills can coexist with exciting new technologies. Perhaps, AI can help us revive an industry that’s lost its ethos.

And let’s not forget, generative AI depends on information that already exists. In other words, it’s nothing without the crutch that is our stories, insights and research. At this rate, it might not take long before ChatGPT will be using its own work to generate new content.

I believe a lot of the concern stems from the fact that AI isn’t being adopted into a flawless world and system. Sometimes things hold enormous potential to do good, but unfortunately have to exist within a tricky environment. And I think this is the case with AI in the UK. It’s not inherently bad, but inviting something new into a struggling industry is bound to cause problems.

To wrap things up with a call-to-action from Dominic himself, stay creative. Let’s keep on fuelling our curiosity about the world. Whether that’s a journalist sharing the important stories or PRs with an ability to bring brands to life.

As I mentioned, it’s an incredibly powerful tool, but with power comes responsibility. I hesitate to speculate about what the widespread adoption of AI can lead to. For one, I’m no futurist and I doubt going down that rabbit hole will do me any good. I’d rather place my energy into what the current discourse reveals about culture, people and what we value as a society.

Ultimately, we determine the trajectory of AI. It is, therefore, imperative that we take action to regulate this technology and ensure that creative work is regarded as a valuable profession in our society. I don’t doubt that we possess the imagination, empathy, insight (and foresight) necessary to weather this storm.

So if we wish to collectively embrace AI, let’s ensure that the very pillars it relies upon aren’t at risk of collapsing.

Have a read of the full speech here – Why action is needed to save quality news from destruction by AI and big tech

Header image: ‘Church of St Bride’ by Johan Bakker is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0