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The Homefront: This column is no place for an AI app

By D. Louise Brown - | Apr 2, 2024

D. Louise Brown

I visited with a friend the other day who apologetically told me he isn’t a very good writer. People do that to me — apologize that they’re not a very good writer, as though all of us are supposed to be. If it’s any consolation, I’m not a very good mathematician. Numbers drive me up the wall. I’d rather write a 20-page essay than complete a one-page math assignment. My school grades reflect this. Had it not been for math, I would have graduated with a perfect 4.0.

My husband, a financial analyst, tells me that were it not for the English essays, he, too, would have graduated with a perfect 4.0.

So there we have it. Some of us are number people; some of us are word people.

But now, thanks to modern technology, apparently anyone can be a great writer. They just have to know how to use a good artificial intelligence app. Or so my friend told me. He had an assignment to write up an instructional piece for his work. So he mapped out the info, wrote it up into some kind of draft and fed it into his AI app. According to him, the app wrote a much better instructional piece than he ever could have.

Am I the only writer who feels a chill settling around my computer? Call me a purist, but this feels ominous.

I’ve read a few journalistic articles in the last few months that explore whether or not AI is a legitimate and trustworthy tool in the field of journalism. The irony, of course, is wondering if those articles I read were written wholly by humans or were in some way partly created with the use of an AI app.

Journalists are either born with a healthy skepticism or quickly develop it as we collect information to write our stories. Much of that information comes from interviewing other human beings and from the works they produce. Our skepticism helps us sort out the real information from the inaccurate stuff.

An accurate story requires accurate information collected from multiple accurate sources. Why? Well, a single source has a single perspective, but a more complete understanding of the roots of a story requires more resources. So a skilled journalist seeks information from multiple sources and digs until he or she is convinced it’s complete and correct.

It’s a journalist’s goal (or should be) to write an accurate story. We want our readers to have confidence in what we write. We also want to avoid the wrath of an editor that rightfully occurs when we mess up this process by collecting inaccurate or incomplete information.

Accurate information is the lifeblood of what we do.

In the field of journalism, artificial intelligence is used to collect information. Whether it’s accurate or not is the problem. Citing AI as a “Boon or Bane?” an article in SciSpace noted that AI uses algorithmic-driven tools in search engines and social media to collect information. The article concluded that journalists “hold predominantly negative perceptions about its influence on journalism.” (Our journalists’ skepticism at work.)

So, yeah. It’s hard to imagine writing a story or a column with an AI app, especially when that AI news article also noted that journalists are concerned about AI’s “negative impact on quality standards and ethical principles,” and its “data hallucination.”

Data hallucinations? That doesn’t exactly generate confidence in that process.

Hallucinations aside, here’s the real deal. I am the real deal. I am the author of my own words and have been for decades. There’s nothing artificial here. You are reading words I wrote for you, by myself, with no help from anyone or anything. And that’s how it’s going to stay. This 42-year-old Homefront column will never use an AI app.

You will always get just me.

D. Louise Brown lives in Layton. She writes a biweekly column for the Standard-Examiner.


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