In a recent article by Reuters, uncomfortable questions were asked.
How many journalists will be replaced by the rise of generative artificial intelligence? How fast will this process take place? Which journalists will be most vulnerable to this kind of disruption?
And should ChatGPT be a challenge or an opportunity to solve some of the news industry's problems?
Recently, there was a big resistance to digital media in newsrooms. The online desk was seen as the "other", and some of the print editors across the Zimbabwe media ecosystem didn't want to give independence to online editors to create their own content.
There was also resistance to change, to innovate and to be alive to the reality that newspapers would suffer as a reading tool or a revenue generator.
But when COVID-19 forced an acceleration of online journalism, many newsrooms didn't know what hit them.
Today, revenues are plummeting, and some new and creative platforms have moved their "newspapers" to new tools like WhatsApp.
There is competition coming up as the media landscape opens up and changes. When did you last wake your son or daughter to buy you a newspaper?
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When the news is already sitting undisturbed on your moving screen (mobile phone or iPad.)
And many can barely make enough to pay their reporters.
There is still a misplaced belief that a good writer can be an online editor. But that post has changed.
That post has assumed more responsibilities-it is now a strategic position rather than a content creation post.
Yes, you need a good editor for content, but you also need a technology mind.
But I digress.
AI will fundamentally change the workflow of newsrooms and the kind of journalist you can employ.
Most will resist, as recently encountered when I spoke to one of the editors on how one needs to work smart in this new generation of Artificial Intelligence instead of spending hours doing what a machine can assist with.
You can learn or perish, but the new jobs are digital, and one must position themselves.
Over the years, at a global scale circulation and revenues from advertising having going down and they will not go back to a time when over hundred thousand copies were sold for popular mast heads.
As legacy media struggle with adjusting and move to new revenue models which are more receptive to the digital environment, time is fast running out.
Globally, publishers are either considering laying off staff, are struggling to pay salaries and stuck on new ways to commercialise their content.
A few days ago, CNN fired their CEO Chris Licht after a brief, tumultuous tenure.
Part of his problems was declining revenues and viewership.
According to S & P Global Market Intelligence, CNN profits have been sinking; it generated US$892 million in 2022 down from US$1.08 billion in 2020.
All this speaks to challenges confronting the media and publishing industry.
This largely speaks to the need for acceleration of digital transformation within newsrooms, locating digital at the epicenter of operations.
From immediacy to serving audience needs and using data and metrics to understand audience to create lasting relationships.
AI will turbocharge newsroom operations, creating synergies for easy data collection and automation.
With digital giants like Meta and Twitter, Google and LinkedIn changing algorithms to make sure audiences stay on their platforms, the most prudent option is for newsrooms to create their own infrastructure based on ICT to enable distribution models.
Downloadable apps are an example of such a distribution path that can be utilised, with potential to be monetised.
Apps are convenient as they bring news to a person’s face on the go.
We are witnessing the flip side of the media industry where today's journalists must be seen as innovators, both strategically and in storytelling.
For Zimbabwe it means automatically our media qualifies to compete at a global stage. But competing at a global stage demands quality and up skilling to remain relevant.
Thus, it needs to be early adopters of new digital technologies and embark on a lifetime learning process where experiment and innovation is in the blood stream.
This indicates that media owners, particularly in Zimbabwe, must seriously look into investing in infrastructure and sustainable partnerships where possible.
While other technologies are still expensive, some are affordable and employing tech savvy youths will close that gap. Insofar as storytelling is concerned, the times have changed.
Back then a story was complete with narrative text story, a headline, a photo sometimes and possibly graphics, but technology has changed all that, allowing the deployment of various tools for storytelling. The problem still remains, however, how to convince good old editors that much has changed and the same story can be told differently.
That's the elephant in the room.
These are interesting times for journalism where sustainability is the biggest issue facing the media.
The old cookie-cutter revenue model is dead and the only way to survive is turning into an entrepreneurial mindset, new skills and knowledge.
- Mokwetsi and Mugadzaweta are journalists who specialise in digital media.