The Media Copilot’s Holiday Wish List

Image via Midjourney

As we enter the holiday doldrums, many journalists are looking at a long, cold January. Layoffs affected hundreds of scribblers, from the Washington Post to Vice to National Geographic. As Katherine Lewis at Niemen wrote, nobody is coming to save us.

At The Media Copilot we’re predicting a future where fewer and fewer humans are creating content for more and more viewers and readers. But there are humans in the equation and it ignore the vital nature of their work is to court disaster. Here’s what we’re asking for for Christmas:

Investors should fund more newsrooms, more writers, more creators. Journalism isn’t going away and the copy-of-a-copy nature of AI writing will soon rear its ugly head when Outlet A rewrites Outlet B’s already AI-written bit of news. The result will be a game of telephone so ridiculous that the writing will turn into mush.

So we need humans. Investors who care about the truth — and I know that’s a tall order — need to appreciate that. Most of the places where Pete and I worked filled a niche and became popular through sheer force of will and VC money. Journalists should stop turning into one-man-Substack-bands and come together to support themselves through newsletters, subscription sites, and video content. Investors can make money in media, just not the 10X returns they’re expecting from most startups.

Journalists should learn to code. Way back in 2000, when I was at NYU getting my Masters in Journalism, I remember a professor who was famous in the 1990s for his edgy writing on technology. I was the department tech dude and I set up the program’s first blogging platform and helped students turn their stories into web pages. Keep in mind that getting a web page up in the early 2000s required a command line or at least an understanding of the code.

When I talked to this professor, I told him that I could give his students a crash course in HTML. He balked. His students didn’t need to know how the web worked any more than a TV anchor needed to know how a camera worked. That professor, bless his heart, is no longer at NYU but I’m absolutely sure his students know an <H2> tag when they see one.

Now we’re in a unique position to be able to program a computer with our thoughts. To use GPT is akin to asking a helpful assistant a question and getting a thesis back. Need to process 5,000 phone records for an investigative piece? Now you can ask ChatGPT to find patterns in the data and run the code it gives you. Need to proofread and automatically post a dozen stories to Twitter? Just ask ChatGPT for some simple scripts.
But this assumes the journalist in question is at least conversant in the command line or Visual Studio. Those that aren’t will be forever left behind.

Support a journalist. Please, please, please pay for news. Pay for commentary. Pay for a newsletter. Pay for this newsletter!

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If you’re in PR, you should be supporting as many journalist Substacks as possible. If you’re in Marketing you need to subscribe to the major sites associated with your industry. And if you’re a working journalist, support as many out of work journalists as you can. Us humans have to stick together.

So there you have it. Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And may all your GPT prompts be merry and bright.

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