“Artificial intelligence fascinates and frightens us in equal measure”

The director of Quo, Darío Pescador, closed the XXV. Huesca Journalists’ Congress with a speech on the future of journalism, the media and the influence of artificial intelligence on society.

If a tree falls in the middle of the forest and no one hears it, did it make a sound when it fell? For a quarter of a century, some of journalism’s brightest minds have attended this conference, bringing our attention year after year. Year after year, few media outlets listen, and meanwhile the world keeps turning.

The great Emilio García-Ruiz, director of the San Francisco Chronicle, could be no less. Among many other pearls of wisdom, he reminded us that change is human, but this time humans have fundamentally changed the way we communicate and there is no going back. This Congress brings to light the fundamental difference between journalism and media, because they are not the same. Also 25 years ago, record companies threatened by the sharing of songs online said it would mean the end of music. Of course it wasn’t. It was simply the end of record companies.

Journalism is not dead, Emilio said. We’ve seen great examples of how people demand and consume the great stories journalists write. But we have also seen many ways in which messages are not read and sometimes not even written but “generated”. If you publish a news story and almost no one reads it, is it still news?

“I wanted to be a journalist to make newspapers,” said Encarna Samitier, winner of this year’s José Manuel Porquet Prize. No wonder! Back then, a newspaper was something fascinating and powerful. A portable device without batteries that contained all the information needed. This ended about 25 years ago due to technology. Technologies that are neither new nor unimaginable. The first phone with a front camera for video conferencing is 20 years old. YouTube appeared in 2005. The first iPhone 18 years ago, just like Twitter and Facebook. It’s time we stop wondering, shut up, and assume that the world will never be the same again. The illusion of the Internet was that everyone could choose their own information. The great Internet fraud is that we make very poor choices.

Emilio Domenech, the young journalist known on YouTube as @nanisimo, confirms it: almost no one under 30 consumes media. Emilio can explain how elections work in the United States in a three-minute video that would require at least 2,000 words in a newspaper. It is true that these calm analyzes are finding more and more readers, as the political scientist Carlos E. Cué reminded us. The New York Times is breaking records with more than 10 million subscribers, and El País, Cué’s newspaper, is paid for by more than 350,000 people, although he himself recognizes that they are an elite, a minority compared to the vast majority of the population acts. Company.

The data shows us that this change in the way people communicate is that we are consuming information throughout the day like french fries instead of three main meals, and that information is being provided to us by other people we follow or who We trust. There is no media anymore, there are talk shows. There are no more newspapers, there are YouTubers, Tiktokers and Twitchers. And most importantly: the money is now on the screens.

Twitter and Facebook don’t need the media, says Emilio García-Ruiz. The traffic that social networks send to media sites has almost completely disappeared. Google search traffic is stagnating due to artificial intelligence. The game ended there. Only the few who have subscribers in their niche will survive.

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Here’s how to bypass the real star of the conference, ChatGPT. Not enough has been said about how the media uses these generative models to flood the web with articles in the hopes that Google will find them more relevant. There is also no dilemma of selling all of a media company’s content in order to train an artificial intelligence that can use this learning to quickly replace the media itself.

Artificial intelligence fascinates and frightens us in equal measure due to a psychological phenomenon called the uncanny valley. She’s too human, so much so that it makes her sick. It is able to read a variety of sources and decide which information is relevant, just like a human journalist. He summarizes, draws conclusions and even invents parts of the news to make it look better.

In 1993, The New Yorker published a comic in which one dog sitting at a computer told another, “Nobody on the Internet knows you’re a dog.” In 30 years, that joke has come full circle and backed us up kicked, because in a few months no one on the internet will know that you’re human, and we don’t know if they’ll care. The danger, as Delia Rodríguez has reminded us, is that the Internet becomes a poisoned well in which false information accumulates, artificial intelligence mixes and regurgitates, and in which it is impossible to distinguish between what is true and what is fictional , to distinguish between what is valuable and what is useless. .

But we don’t need artificial intelligence to misinform us, we do it ourselves just fine. Journalists have reminded us how difficult it is to report from an egalitarian perspective when women are silenced by systematic harassment on social networks . Algorithm-driven social networks designed to bring out the worst in people, which has proven to be the most profitable. The apocalypse. But not everything is bad. We also have good news for journalism this year. There are things that work.

New York Times journalist María Sánchez Díez reminds us that the true task of the journalist is not to revive what already exists on the Internet, but to bring to light precisely what is not there. Columnist Ángeles Caballero encourages us to write in an entertaining way, because in journalism we tend to be celebratory and opinion columns carry great weight. The people who are successful on social networks are approachable and ambitious, and constant contact with readers is essential to the fulfillment of our work.

We are not bad because we are journalists, but because of what the journalism companies have done with their editorial lines, as the “old” journalist Javier Ricou reminded us, but we can transfer some of the prestige that the media had before years had. Regain trust with valuable informational journalism, win back direct traffic, and give those who choose their information the quality they deserve instead of passively receiving it. The what is accessible to everyone, Pedro Piqueras told us, but the how changes everything.

It’s been 25 years now. Let’s see if we can find out. It’s no longer web or paper, it’s no longer video or text, it’s everything, everywhere and at the same time. The media must be fascinating or essential. If not, the message is a falling tree and no one hears it.

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