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Opinion

Navigating the age of AI: reflections on press freedom week

BAR NONE - Atty. Ian Vincent Manticajon - The Freeman

It’s that time of the year again when journalists from various outlets in Cebu gather for a series of activities spanning a week called Cebu Press Freedom Week.

Yesterday, I took my media law and ethics class to a forum at UP Cebu. The event, dubbed the “GMA Masterclass Series: The Cebu Press Freedom Week Special,” was organized by GMA News and explored the topic of "Journalism in the Age of AI (Artificial Intelligence)." Likewise, the pooled editorial released by the local dailies yesterday discussed the challenges AI brings to journalism. To kick off the Cebu Press Freedom Week formally, Fr. Mhar Vincent Balili assured attendees during Sunday's mass that, despite the rise of AI, media practitioners retain a vital role in shaping our society on a “communal level.”

I’m glad that this year’s celebration of Press Freedom Week has addressed the topic of AI, a matter of urgent concern considering how unprepared the legacy media industry was when navigating the impact of social media in the mid-2010s. It would be the height of irony if journalism and the media industries, which have ridden the crest of technological waves since the invention of the printing press and the transistor, find themselves clueless and lost regarding the impact of algorithms and AI on the production, distribution, and consumption of content.

In the academe, the communication and arts faculty of UP Cebu have engaged in a series of conversations about AI with the goal of coming up with a policy brief on the matter. The UP System is also holding consultations with the faculty on the UP Artificial Intelligence Policy. The discussions will continue, conscious of the fact that addressing the impact of AI requires a multidisciplinary approach that includes inviting IT experts to the table.

This multidisciplinary approach to understanding AI and its impact is necessary because, in the many conversations about AI I have attended or observed, people discuss the potential and even the dangers of AI without truly grasping the technology's functions and their impacts.

Even I have my opinions about AI, and they are not even sufficiently informed. But from where I am, discussions about AI remind me of an incident from my newsroom copy editing days in the early 2000s.

Back then, a news reporter quipped that she intentionally put in minimal effort to keep her copy error-free so that it would give us editors something to do. We laughed at her joke, but in hindsight, I could have pointed out the flaw in her logic. If a reporter consistently submits clean copy, we editors would shift our focus to the more substantive aspects of her report, spending time enhancing her stories and brainstorming follow-up pieces, instead of getting bogged down with improving prose.

Just like a well-written article allows editors to focus on improving the story, AI can free us from the confines of technical tasks and allow us more time to focus on the more creative and human aspects of storytelling, areas where AI can't compete.

The advent of AI compels us to redefine the foundations of what it means to be human. We can ground our approach to AI in a firm understanding of our own humanity, enhancing traits that are uniquely human, such as compassion and understanding. In my media writing class last semester, for example, I encouraged my students to explore and develop writing topics that allow them to immerse themselves in and share the stories of their respective communities. Getting a feel for and making their local communities heard in real time are things AI can never replace.

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