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Is artificial intelligence taking over journalism in Jordan?

Is artificial intelligence taking over journalism in Jordan?

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Life Diversity

Friday 5 May 202303:25 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

هل يلتهم الذكاء الاصطناعي الصحافيين الأردنيين؟

From working in the factories of tourist cities, to coffee shops and even vegetable markets, the work journey of Zayd al-Heesah, a 25-year-old media studies graduate from a Jordanian university, can be summed up.

His love for media and his desire to make the voice of the people heard and tell their stories drove Zayd to choose this major. During his university studies, he tried to find media training or part-time work in the field, but he was met with many closed doors, as the prerequisite of having work experience was always a challenge. He tells Raseef22, "Unfortunately, most companies require experience even though media graduates have plenty of energy and creativity."

Al-Heesah believes that the digitization of media and technological advancements will help media graduates and make it easier to deal with the job and understand it. However, the challenges will be represented in watching an AI news anchor that speaks on the screen coldly and without emotion about people's causes and the issues that affect people, as he put it.

First AI news anchor in Jordan

A week ago, the English-language Roya TV channel announced the launch of what it described as the first TV presenter operating through artificial intelligence in Jordan, named Fareed, and who has been programmed to speak Arabic as well.

The announcement did not come as positive news for some journalism and media graduates who expressed their displeasure through their comments on the channel's posts on Facebook and Instagram, saying: "We studied for 4 years for nothing."

Media graduate Ghadeer al-Bitar, 31, says that nepotism plays a big role in the media industry, as there are those who work without having a university degree in the field. Now with the advent of artificial intelligence in the job market, "if there was a 10% chance of getting a job, it will now be completely obstructed," she adds.

She goes on to say that news read by artificial intelligence will be soulless, as if they were read from websites without the correct cadence and fixed tone of the news, whether it is sad or joyful.

A number of Jordanian media institutions have employed artificial intelligence technologies in producing podcasts, investigations, and media reports of various types and forms

The media and unemployment

The unemployment rate in Jordan reached about 23.1% during the third quarter of 2022, according to the Jordanian Department of Statistics. In 2018, the Jordanian Journalists Syndicate announced that the number of graduates exceeded 8,000 without any job opportunities for them amid the economic crisis afflicting the media.

Samih al-Nasser, the head of the Jordanian Civil Service Bureau, revealed in statements to the press last August that journalism and the major of media in Jordan is one of the stagnant specializations for men and women in the country, and that the bureau will stop receiving employment applications for them.

This raises questions about the importance of having artificial intelligence in employment and to what extent this affects media graduates and professionals in the Kingdom.

"Those who still rely on traditional or old-fashioned methods in journalism will have their careers ended by artificial intelligence"

Institutions need to evolve

The CEO of Osh Technology and Artificial Intelligence Company, Shehata al-Sayed, tells Raseef22 that the use of artificial intelligence has become a necessity for journalistic institutions due to the advantages it offers, including reducing operating costs, improving product quality, and increasing the speed of news flow. He elaborates that human employees will not be as accurate or as fast.

Al-Sayed, whose company owns the Open Source Directory Project for Arab Journalists, believes that institutions need to develop their products and form to give them an intelligent character, as this is a priority for the public and their interests.

The difficulties, from his point of view, lie in the absence of infrastructure in institutions to receive technology and the routine that exists in most Arab media institutions that are not convinced of this development. He stresses that the lifespan of institutions that do not move towards this type of technology will be short, and will soon be forced to close their doors.

A report measuring the readiness of governments to adopt AI technologies states that Jordan advanced to 6th place in the Arab world and 63rd globally in 2022, advancing 17 places in the overall index compared to being in 80th place in the 2021 report

Artificial intelligence and humans

In a 2019 study released by the American professional consulting firm McKinsey, it was predicted that 800 million workers worldwide would lose their jobs by 2030 and be replaced by automated systems, while approximately 357 million people would need to learn new skills and transition to jobs that are in demand in the job market, including journalists.

This study was not the only one to address this issue. This year, a team of researchers led by the American Princeton University conducted a study on which professions are the most affected by the rise of artificial intelligence, especially the widespread use of "ChatGPT, which is capable of understanding language, conversing with humans, and suggesting multiple answers simultaneously.

According to the study's findings, journalism was one of the threatened professions, as artificial intelligence can compile sports reports, monitor and summarize stock market movements.

On the other hand, al-Sayed, who is also a member of the International Federation of Journalists, believes that it is impossible for artificial intelligence to replace humans, whether in the journalism sector or in any other sector. However, he says it will reduce the number of journalists in news organizations, emphasizing that "artificial intelligence will not be a substitute for human journalists in any way or form." He points out that a journalist who develops his/her skills and keeps up with technological advancements will not be affected by artificial intelligence, while those who still rely on traditional or old-fashioned methods in journalism will have their careers ended by artificial intelligence.

According to a study on what professions are most affected by the rise of artificial intelligence, journalism was one of the threatened professions, as artificial intelligence can compile sports reports, monitor and summarize stock market movements

The machine and emotions

Perhaps the most prominent debate in using artificial intelligence in media is whether it has the ability to possess emotions that help convey news to the public, especially news of a human nature.

In 2022, Google engineer Blake Lemoine told The Washington Post that "LaMDA", an AI-powered chatbot the company is developing, became sentient and had the ability to express thoughts and feelings like a human child. He says the transcripts of the conversations he had with the AI are evidence of that, saying, “If I didn’t know exactly what it was – a computer program we built recently – I’d think it was a seven-year-old or eight-year-old kid that happens to know physics,” especially after the AI model began expressing fears.

When Lemoine presented his evidence to the company, alerting them that the automated program was sentient, Google responded by halting its work administratively and putting him on leave. However, fellow Google software engineer Agüera y Arcas showed in an article published in the British The Economist excerpts from conversations held with LaMDA, indicating that the program's neural networks, a structural configuration that mimics the human brain, is making "strides" toward consciousness and becoming self-aware, which Google later denied.

Here, consciousness means, according to The Economist, the ability to "experience sensations, such as thirst, brightness or confusion. But it is sometimes used more colloquially to refer to intelligence that is human-like in nature, implying consciousness, emotions, a desire for self-preservation and the like."

In this regard, al-Sayed emphasizes the need for journalists to learn about artificial intelligence in all its types, forms, technologies, and tools, and to know how to employ it in journalistic work, whether at the individual or institutional levels.

Some studies have predicted that 800 million workers worldwide will lose their jobs by 2030, and they will be replaced by automated systems

Jordan and artificial intelligence

The report released by the British institution Insights Oxford, measuring the readiness of governments to adopt artificial intelligence technologies, indicates that Jordan advanced in 2022 to sixth place in the Arab world and 63rd globally, advancing 17 places in the overall index compared to 80th place in the 2021 report.

Some Jordanian media institutions have employed artificial intelligence technologies in producing podcasts, investigations, and reports of various types and forms.

Stuck between a powerful technological beast on the rise and shrinking job opportunities, Jordanian journalists have found themselves hoping that the days ahead will bring them better opportunities in a world of rapidly emerging and advancing technologies

Regarding the launch of the AI presenter "Fareed," Dana al-Sharayri, the English department manager at Roya TV, tells Raseef22 that the department noticed the dominance of artificial intelligence over the media field and how its being used in some institutions, adding that the presence of an AI specialist helped them get to know the tools and steps to deal with it.

The challenges that Roya, the Arabic-speaking channel, faced included the difficulty of "Fareed" pronouncing some letters, in addition to limited options in designing its appearance to make it closer to the Arabic appearance. She stresses that its existence would not affect the job opportunities of media graduates, but would facilitate the work of newsrooms, especially when there are no available presenters to broadcast urgent news.

For his part, Minister of Digital Economy and Entrepreneurship Ahmad Hanandeh said that the information technology and services sector in Jordan has a high level of competitiveness in the Middle East and North Africa region.

He added that the country includes young people who have high-level skills in the field of artificial intelligence and dealing with these technologies, which is in line with the basic ethical principles included in the National Charter on AI Ethics.

The charter was approved by the Jordanian Cabinet to ensure the responsible use of artificial intelligence in a way that encourages creativity and innovation.

Between a powerful technological beast on the rise, shrinking job opportunities, and a narrowing playing field for freedoms, Jordanian journalists have found themselves standing at a crossroads, hoping that the days ahead will bring them better opportunities in a world of rapidly emerging and advancing technologies.

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