Unlike newsrooms, AI doesn’t have a BS filter

Natalie Harvey
By Natalie Harvey | 26 June 2024
Natalie Harvey.

Natalie Harvey, CEO Mamamia

It feels odd to start an article about AI talking about the past, but stay with me. It’s 2005 at 5:55pm, we’re cooking a shepherd's pie and the telly is on. We’re all waiting for the 6pm news bulletin to let us know what’s going on in the world around us and probably more importantly, whether we can hang out the sheets tomorrow. 

At the clock ticks over to 6pm, we see a middle-aged man wearing a lovely suit and tie, telling us about far-off wars, sporting scores and tomorrow’s weather. We take it at face value and then wait for a new episode of Grey’s Anatomy to come on.
Try telling anyone under 30 that story and watch them look confused. Why did you have to wait until 6pm to find out the news and the weather? What if you weren’t interested in sport? And could you seriously only watch ONE episode of Grey’s episode per week? That’s insane.

In 2024 people’s need for news  - and the definition of news itself - has evolved radically. We’re exposed to consistently refreshed content with over half of Australians getting their news from social media. It's coming at us through multiple screens from every direction and it’s coming fast. 

Think of the recent Bondi tragedy, yes we were watching the news but we were also refreshing social for the latest information and reading our favourite sites while also sharing links and information in our WhatsApp groups with family and friends. All in real-time.

Within minutes, those social environments were full of unfiltered imagery, rumours and misinformation creating a toxic, graphic, disturbing and distressing environment for those who just wanted to know what was going on and check if their family and friends were safe.

Traditional news is on life support. 

Or at least that’s what we’re hearing everywhere. 

In reality, “news” has changed. Today's news isn’t just the biggest stories, it’s also those stories being told in the way that each person wants to consume them. News is now utterly subjective. Boardrooms and newsrooms are no longer the gatekeepers of “the news”. My news needs are very different from yours. For example, I need to hear about Travis Kelce’s dancing right now, along with information about the new DIY cervical screenings. You might not have a cervix or even care about Travis Kelce’s moves off the NFL field.

Fulfilling the news and information needs of women is something that Mamamia has been doing for 17 years. And it is something we know how to do better than anyone else. Along with the news we bring to women in written, video and social form, we have a twice-daily news podcast called The Quicky which covers the news women want and need to know about. 

Every month we provide 7 million people with news. Our audience needs to trust that what we’re saying to them is relevant, authentic and real. With this power (reach) comes a lot of responsibility. 

And now we must consider how AI fits -  or doesn’t quite fit -  into the 2024 news agenda. 

Put simply: creating this trust is something that AI cannot do. 

Protecting the relationship we have with our audience is crucial. That’s why we use AI to enable our content creators, supporting them to focus on continuously building trust and bringing our audience the news they actually need. We use AI as an extension of our skills, not as a replacement for them. 

It would be really easy, potentially more efficient, and cheaper for us to use AI to create our news content. But make no mistake, that would jeopardise the relationship we have built over 17 years. We would become irrelevant very, very quickly. 

Our audience, Australian Women, expect to be met exactly where they are and have news tailored to their needs but because they are smart, they don’t just swallow everything they’re fed online. They need to trust the information they’re getting. To overcome inherent scepticism and build trust requires human interaction, distinction and calling bullshit. Unfortunately, AI’s BS filter is low. 

The sheer amount of news content currently being produced is colossal, beyond recordable and way beyond consumable. Working out what we need to say and, more importantly, what we need to not say (or show) is solely a human function. The care with which Mamamia curates and creates content is not something that can be outsourced to AI. It’s distinctly human.

Audiences are already nervous. Concern about misinformation has skyrocketed to 75 per cent, up 11 percentage points since 2022

The publishers who have purpose, as we do at Mamamia, those who are committed to the responsible use of AI, should be the places you start. 

These publishers are the most trustworthy, the most reputable and the most human.

Our industry talks a lot about sustainability and I propose that we add sustainability of the News industry into that category. Imagine the alternative: a world with fewer voices, more interference from people with bad intentions and all-powerful platforms that prioritise potentially unsafe user-generated content over brand and audience-safe, credible journalism.

We as an industry have the power to ensure that trusted voices continue to be heard. Hear from them at Mamamia. 


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