The role of journalists in the face of the challenges and opportunities presented by new artificial intelligence (AI) tools was the starting point for the second Ibero-American conference "More Women, Better Journalism," held by the Women In The News Network (WINN) on Nov. 16. The online event proposed reflections on issues relevant to journalism today. It also highlighted the social responsibility of journalists in the face of disinformation and political polarization.
“We are all a little bit excited, hopeful, but also a little bit scared,” said Gabriela Cañas, CEO of the Spanish news agency EFE, during the opening panel of the event entitled "Artificial Intelligence: A more or less intelligent journalism?"
Daniel Hadad, founder and president of the Argentine news outlet Infobae, and Cañas took part in a conversation moderated by Sofía Vago, CEO and president of Accenture Argentina, on the impact of new generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) tools on journalism.
“Newsrooms around the world are in a state of shock, which I don't think is a bad thing. Every now and then I think it is very good to reflect on what is our tactic, but, above all, what is our strategy,” Hadad said. The two journalists shared how the media outlets they lead are dealing with the new possibilities presented by GenAI.
At Infobae, the technology team has developed a tool that draws on more than 120,000 images from its own archive to create illustrative images for the site's stories.
“Nothing replaces a good photographer and a good photo taken at a time when something is happening. But sometimes, to illustrate something, a photo generated with artificial intelligence helps just as much,” he said.
EFE is also developing its tools, Cañas said, exploring how GenAI can help journalists do their job. She believes the technology will “de-robotize humans,” in other words, freeing communication professionals from repetitive tasks that can be carried out by automated systems. However, the last word on machine-generated content should always come from a human, she said.
And in the face of the risk of disinformation generated by artificial intelligence tools, “what we have to do is to continue working with our ethical codes”, Cañas said, “guaranteeing citizens the truthfulness of the news.”
“Faced with all this mess that citizens are facing right now, with artificial intelligence, social media, platforms, in short, all kinds of devices that disseminate anything, we have a social responsibility that sets us apart,” she said.
This social responsibility must also respond to the decline in public confidence in the news media, said the professionals who took part in the second panel of the congress, “Journalism, Disinformation and Credibility.”
Claudia Palacios, host of Blue Radio and columnist for El Tiempo newspaper in Colombia, commented on media illiteracy of a large part of the public, especially the younger generation. While previous generations were formed with the news media as a reference source for information, younger people have had social media as their primary sources of information, she noted.
“There is a major challenge in how these audiences are choosing what content to consume, what they give credibility to, whether they are developing a sense of smell that allows them to understand that some things are fishy, that is, strange,” Palacios said.
Paula Escobar Chavarría, CNN Chile anchor, stressed the importance of explaining to the public what journalism is and how it is done in order to strengthen the audience's trust in the content being presented to them.
“We have to explain that what we do has nothing to do with circulating information on social media,” she said. “I think that in this sense, this idea of citizen journalism, which a few years ago had a certain echo, that anyone could be a journalist, was a very bad idea.”
This is because malicious information, the so-called "fake news" that circulates on social media, is created with the purpose of “transforming lies into information,” Chavarría said.
“Our profession, with all the mistakes it can make and all the limits it can have, is a professional job and is therefore different from the other [of circulating information on social media], and we have to put a strong emphasis on that,” she said.
Chavarría also highlighted how women journalists are the most affected in this environment of discrediting the profession. She called on her colleagues who are the target of attacks to resist and continue doing their jobs.
“These [attacks] are aimed at intimidating, scaring and silencing the voices of women journalists who are doing their job, either investigating cases of corruption, or making known realities that different power sectors do not want to be known or expressing their opinion about it,” she said.
Another way to restore journalism's credibility, Chavarría suggested, is for journalists to also resist social and political polarization.
“Something very important is not to polarize ourselves, that is, to maintain a professional tone, an adequate tone, in which we are capable of interviewing people who think differently from each other and from us, and to be able to conduct our work with a tone of professionalism and not of polarization. I believe that falling into this is like falling into the game of those who are undermining democracy, destroying the public space, and undermining the very foundations of journalism and freedom of expression,” she said.
Gabriela Olivan, founder and president of WINN, pointed out that the network, founded in 2018, now has 4,500 Spanish-speaking journalists, communicators and content creators in various countries. According to her, the More Women, Better Journalism conference "is a milestone in WINN's recent history of promoting free, innovative and unbiased journalism."
Olivan noted how the last five years have presented unprecedented challenges for global journalism, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the popularization of AI tools, as well as an increase in violence against journalists.
“That is why initiatives such as WINN are so relevant: international networks that bring together media, journalists, companies, and universities to think about the facts, interpret them and question them, to assume with responsibility, courage and ethical commitment our role in the reconstruction of the social fabric,” she said.
Summer Harlow, associate director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, closed the meeting by recapping the key themes that emerged in each panel of the congress, which also promoted conversations about the role of journalism in health literacy, sustainability in the media agenda and podcasts as a new journalistic genre.
Harlow highlighted the importance of initiatives such as the WINN network as a means of promoting women in journalism, especially in leadership positions.
“Women represent more than 50 percent of the global population, but only 40 percent in newsrooms, and in management positions that number does not exceed 24 percent. So a conference like this one, which makes women in journalism more visible, is very important, today more than ever,” Harlow said.
The Knight Center also supported the second Ibero-American conference “More Women, Better Journalism.”
A full recording of the event is available on WINN's YouTube channel.