Saturday, March 25, 2023

The 'death' of journalism – may its memory be a blessing


R.I.P. Journalism . . . with "thanks" to ChatGPT. IMAGE: CP

A SNIPPET shared about the ChatGPT debate from one of the gurus of investigative journalism, Sheila Coronel, at New York’s Columbia School of Journalism. She reports on social media about a recent assignment brief given by a student to ChatGPT: “Write an obituary for journalism.”

The less than 500-word result churned out by the chatbot was too close for comfort.

“It is with heavy heart that we must announce the passing of journalism, a once-vital industry that served as a cornerstone for democracy and truth-seeking around the world.

“Born in the early days of print media, journalism grew and evolved alongside society, providing a critical lens through which we could understand the events and people shaping our world. From the rise of the penny press in the 19th century to the advent of television news in the mid-20th century, journalism adapted to new technologies and mediums, but always remained committed to its fundamental purpose: informing the public and holding those in power accountable.

“However, in recent years, journalism has suffered from a slow and painful decline. The rise of social media and the internet brought about an era of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’, in which misinformation and propaganda could spread at lightning speed, unchecked by the traditional gatekeepers of the news media.

“At the same time, the business models that sustained journalism for centuries have been upended by the digital revolution, leading to widespread layoffs, consolidation, and a shrinking of newsrooms around the world. With fewer resources and less time to devote to in-depth reporting, many journalists have been forced to chase clicks and pageviews, prioritising sensationalism over substance.

“As journalism struggled to adapt to these new challenges, it became increasingly vulnerable to attacks from those in power who sought to undermine its credibility and diminish its role in society. From ‘enemy of the people’ to ‘fake news’, journalists have been demonised and dismissed by those who fear their power to expose corruption and hold the powerful accountable.

“Despite these challenges, there were always glimmers of hope. Brave journalists continued to risk their lives and reputations to bring us the truth, even in the face of intimidation and violence. New and innovative models of journalism emerged, from nonprofit investigative outlets to community-driven reporting initiatives.

“But ultimately, these efforts proved insufficient to save journalism from its slow decline. Today, as we mourn its passing, we are left to grapple with the consequences of a world without a free and independent press. Without journalism, who will hold our leaders accountable? Who will bring us the stories that matter? Who will be the voice of the people?

“To the end, we must remember that journalism was not just an industry or a profession, but a vital pillar of our democracy and our collective humanity. Its passing leaves a void that cannot easily be filled, and a challenge that we must all work together to overcome. May its memory be a blessing, and may we never forget its enduring legacy of truth, justice and freedom.”

FACT CHECK: As Sheila Coronel notes, journalism is absolutely not dead. In fact, innovative models are emerging in the search for truth.

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