News Corp CEO Robert Thomson warns AI could ‘fatally undermine’ journalism
The rise of artificial intelligence could “fatally undermine” journalism, News Corp CEO Robert Thomson warned — echoing dire forecasts that humans may be cast aside in a variety of knowledge-based industries.
Thomson raised the alarm over AI programs that can swipe proprietary content or steer away advertising dollars from “blacklisted” publications as he addressed industry leaders at the International News Media Association’s World Congress in New York on Thursday.
“Our collective IP [intellectual property] is under threat” from AI, said Thomson, the top executive at The Post’s parent company, which also owns the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and the Times of London.
“Firstly, our content is being harvested and scraped and otherwise ingested to train AI engines.
“Secondly, individual stories will be surfaced in specific searches.”
“And, thirdly, our content will be synthesized and presented as distinct when it is actually an extracting of editorial essence,” Thomson added.
“These are super snippets, containing all the effort and insight of great journalism but designed so the reader will never visit a journalism website, thus fatally undermining that journalism.”
Thomson cited “extreme revenue pressure” and “the uncertain macroeconomic times ahead” for the news business, which will require media companies to “optimize operations.”
He took aim at “Global Disinformation Index and its ilk” for dissuading advertisers from doing business with publishers that post stories that are deemed “disinformation.”
GDI, a UK-based entity with affiliates in the US, reportedly compiled secretive “exclusion lists” of conservative media outlets in an attempt to deny them advertising dollars.
“These arrogant armchair amateurs have undue influence on ad spend by agencies and companies,” Thomson said.
“No masthead is immune to sudden, capricious changes in algorithmic ranking that can affect your ad revenue,” he said.
“Separately, we are all dependent, to a lesser or greater extent, on advertising and yet some ad agencies are unnecessarily nervous about news adjacencies.”
Thomson said he recently approached the CEO of a major advertiser and wondered why the company banned placing ads with The Post.
“The chief exec said he was completely unaware of any such ban,” Thomson said.
“So he checked, and to his genuine and annoyed surprise, a hyper-politicized agency flunky had a Post prohibition.”
GDI’s blacklists are reportedly sent to large advertising firms that are lobbied by “nonpartisan” organizations that purport to fight disinformation online.
The firms are pressured to cease doing business with right-leaning, conservative news outlets — among them Newsmax, the Federalist, the Daily Wire and the New York Post, according to the Washington Examiner.
GDI’s website says the group seeks to “remove the financial incentive” to spread “disinformation” by disseminating a “dynamic exclusion list” that rates media outlets according to their “risk” factor.
Complicating matters is the fact that “journalism is now grappling with a sudden surfeit of artificial information,” Thomson said.
The Associated Press, Bloomberg News, the New York Times, the BBC, and Thomson Reuters are among the news agencies that have started to incorporate AI into their news operations.
However, AI-powered journalism lacks in “EI” — emotional intelligence that comes with editorial judgment by humans, he said.
“On our side, AI without EI is empty content calories,” Thomson said.
“Emotional intelligence should be our comparative advantage given that we are in the editorial empathy business.”
Thomson added: “We need to know how to bring knowledge to the knowing … and we need to be more collectively assertive in haggling for the values and virtues of journalism.”
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