Mario García: AI at the junction where journalism and technology meet

Feb 07, 2023 at 10:00 am by admin

I continue to immense myself into that brave and fascinating world of artificial technology (writes Mario R. García). How can we as journalists use it better?

Journalists traditionally love to write about technological advances. Applying such advances to their work is a more challenging task. I am old enough to remember how long it took for so many journalists to abandon their Underwood typewriters and sit in front of a computer to build their stories. I also recall quite vividly how editors turned their eyes away from color to favor black and white newspapers. The arrival of the Internet was looked at as something that would not affect their business. Today, most of my work is about transformation, showing journalists that a mobile first approach is not just recommended, but essential.

Think small, I tell editors in my workshops. Plan your content for the smallest platform of all, then adapt content to larger platforms such as computer screens and the printed page (if such a thing still exists in their organsation).

The new technology at our doorstep

And, while less than 30 per cent of the newsrooms around the world have approached content with a mobile first mentality, here we are with a new technology not just knocking at the door, but actually pushing it a bit to get in.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the study and development of computer systems capable of doing activities ordinarily performed by humans. AI has been around for a few years, often ignored by journalists, except in their coverage of it as a story. That story is now not about futuristic thinking, but more like the here and now. I believe that every person working in a newsroom needs to learn about AI, engage with such platforms as ChatGPT, described by The New York Times as “ the best artificial intelligence chatbot ever released to the general public.”

ChatGPT was built by OpenAI, the San Francisco A.I. company that is also responsible for tools like GPT-3 and DALL-E 2, the breakthrough image generator that came out this year.


Like those tools, ChatGPT — which stands for “generative pre-trained transformer” — landed with a splash. In five days, more than a million people signed up to test it, according to Greg Brockman, OpenAI’s president. Hundreds of screenshots of ChatGPT conversations went viral on Twitter, and many of its early fans speak of it in astonished, grandiose terms, as if it were some mix of software and sorcery.”

My daily tutorials

I admit it has taken me a long time to enter the world of Artificial Intelligence, but I am glad I have. I agree with this Tweet about the significance of ChatGPT and AI generally:

The most immediate and beneficial use of AI for journalists is in the area of identifying fake news. AI is helping the media industry by filtering fake news. Deep learning AI tools are now being used to source as well as fact-check a story to identify fake news.

I would like to give you a taste of my dialog with ChatGPT about a subject that I am passionate about: mobile storytelling.

My dialog with ChatGPT

So I am chatting with ChatGPT about mobile journalism. I ask, tell me about mobile storytelling for journalists. Here is the Chat’s response:

“Journalists who practice mobile storytelling need to be proficient in using various mobile applications and tools, such as camera apps, audio recording apps, editing software, and social media platforms. They should also have a good understanding of multimedia storytelling techniques and principles, such as using sound, images and text to create a narrative, as well as how to use mobile technology to enhance the storytelling experience.

“Overall, mobile storytelling allows journalists to reach a wider audience, to tell stories in new and innovative ways, and to provide a more interactive and engaging experience for their audience.”

Quite articulate narrative, right? Then, the chatbot continues:

“Mobile storytelling refers to the practice of using mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, to create, produce and distribute multimedia content for journalism purposes. This includes video, audio, text, photos, and graphics, among others. The goal of mobile storytelling is to use these tools to provide a more immersive and engaging experience for the audience and to make the content accessible from anywhere, at any time.

It then mentioned my name as a reference for mobile storytelling, so I asked:

What are Mario Garcia’s tips for journalists and mobile storytelling?

It answered:

Mario Garcia provides several tips for journalists on how to effectively create mobile-first content:
1.Prioritize the mobile experience: Journalists should consider the unique features and capabilities of mobile devices and create content that is optimized for these devices.
2.Experiment with multimedia: Journalists should experiment with different multimedia formats, such as video, audio, and interactive graphics, to enhance the mobile storytelling experience.
3. Be concise and to the point: Mobile content should be concise and straightforward, with a clear and engaging narrative that captures the attention of the reader.
4. Use visual storytelling: Visual storytelling, such as images and videos, is key to capturing the attention of mobile users and engaging them in the story.
5. Make use of interactive elements: Interactive elements, such as maps, quizzes, and polls, can be used to engage and involve audiences in the story.
6.Take advantage of native features: Journalists should take advantage of the native features of mobile devices, such as camera and GPS capabilities, to create unique and immersive experiences.
7.Consider the audience: Journalists should always consider their audience when creating mobile content and tailor their stories to meet the needs and preferences of their target audience.

Finally, I asked:

What happens when a journalist blends text (the narrative) with visual assets such as videos, audio?

“When a journalist blends text (the narrative) with visual assets such as videos and audio, it can create a more engaging and immersive experience for the reader. The combination of text and multimedia elements can bring a story to life and provide a deeper understanding of the events and characters involved.

“By incorporating visual elements, such as videos and images, the journalist can bring the story to life and help the reader connect with the events and people involved in the story. Video and audio can help to capture the emotion and atmosphere of the events and can bring the story to life in a way that is not possible with just text alone.

“Incorporating audio can also help to add depth and texture to the story, capturing the sounds and voices of the people involved in the events. For example, an audio recording of a witness’s testimony can bring a story to life in a way that is not possible with just text.

“By blending text with visual and audio assets, the journalist can create a more engaging and immersive experience for the reader, helping to bring the story to life and making it more memorable and impactful.”

What next?

I have barely started my journey with AI. Just as I did when I took piano lessons, or when I trained to run a marathon, this is going to require daily practice.

As I discover AI, one layer at a time, I am mesmerized for its capabilities, but also aware of its limitations — it did not get the name of my company, Garcia Media, right (Mario Garcia Communications, it called it) — but I am concentrating on AI’s powers to offer information quickly. If I am a reporter seeking quick answers, presented in a succinct but stylish manner, then I am getting that from ChatGPT.

Now, if it could provide tutorials for mobile storytelling, helping students and journalists build stories that combine narratives and visual assets, something that I think it is possible to get AI to do (working on it!), then I believe the benefits of AI and apps such as ChatGPT will compensate for areas of concern, such as plagiarism and using AI to propagate erroneous information.

If we use the analogy of a kitchen, for example, what AI does is to become the chef’s assistant. Let the chef concentrate on making sure the dish is prepared to perfection, while AI assembles many of the ingredients, sorts the spices out and serves them on small containers for easy reach, put it all in front of the chef. But, notice, there is no final dish served without the presence of a human chef (or so I wish to believe for now!).

Count me in as an AI convert. The learning continues. Stay tuned.

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Sections: Columns & opinion


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