ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence(AI)-based chatbot developed by OpenAI has caught the attention of the media. Given its capabilities you’d think that journalists would rush to use it, at least as an aid to their story writing. 

ChatGPT could do the heavy lifting on their desktop research, generating story ideas and perhaps even help with a first draft of their stories. But have they? 

Maverick’s Media Outreach team recently spoke with 15 journalists, aged between 27 to 32 years old, that we knew to get an idea how journalists are reacting to ChatGPT.

Surprisingly, just over a third of them (6) hadn’t even heard about ChatGPT, about half (7) said they heard about it but do not use it. Only two of them have embraced the use of AI and ChatGPT.

Algooth Putranto, a communication lecturer from Sahid University and a journalist, said this may be an indication that there are still journalists who are reluctant to learn new things such as technology adoption to lighten their workload.  “The academic world is the same as journalists. Many think and work in a conservative way,” he added.

Shifting Practices and How The Impact Journalism

Life in the newsroom in the digital era has become more technologically complex.  Journalists now use multiple tools to produce multiple types of content for multiple delivery platforms. 

Two of the 15 journalists above told us they use ChatGPT to help them find interesting story ideas with their work.

IDN Times Editor-in-Chief Uni Lubis, speaking at the Bincang Seru program at IDN Times YouTube channel (6/2/2023), said IDN Times used AI to report on the weather and sports. Some other media use AI to translate news reports in Indonesian into English.

Heru Margianto, a journalist with said that ChatGPT has already become part of his daily work and he had thoroughly explored ways to produce content using ChatGPT.

“I have used ChatGPT to create YouTube drafts, features, a film  script, coding for a website, reporting schedules and even a reflection of the Holy Book,” said Margianto, adding however that the products should always be checked for accuracy.

“It is not always accurate and it was wrong on a number of occasions, but to come up with ideas or inspiration it is really useful,” he said.

ChatGPT itself has come up with a disclaimer that it does not have real time access to data and that the data it uses only go as far as 2021.

Is ChatGPT a threat to journalists and journalism?

Margianto doesn’t think so. ChatGPT is no threat to journalism, he said, but it is a threat to the media business because of how it changes the nature of search. 

The threat, he said, comes when the public no longer rely on Google search because of ChatGPT. Google search, he said, was important for online media businesses because it provided the largest traffic source.

“More than 60 percent of media traffic comes from Google search. When people use ChatGPT they no longer deem Google search as relevant, that means people will no longer visit media sites. They will not click on media links and it is there that the media will lose traffic and when they do, their business will go down,” Margianto said.

Agus Sudibyo, a press activist and former member of the Press Council who was also a guest at IDN Times’s Bincang Seru program, concurs, labeling ChatGPT a “frenemy” of the media.

It is a friend because it offers new opportunities in the content of journalistic products, he said.  “Reporting becomes easier, so it is the reporters who are  under threat. It gives rise to new hope of more efficient work.”

ChatGPT, however, turns into an enemy when information becomes too easy to obtain, leading to the possibility that people would forget the need to read them in news websites and other media, let alone do their own research, he said.

The threat to media businesses can only mean more layoffs if journalists and the media cannot embrace and use AI and ChatGPT to enhance their offerings and quality of news reports. 

But how should they face this challenge?

Putranto said there are two influencing factors: internal and external. Internally, journalists should be motivated to adopt new technologies. Externally the media companies should reward their journalists who show advanced competencies like technology adoption.  “I think the reward would be more beneficial than just providing a series of training classes,” he said.

That seems like sound advice but is it possible to adopt it in a market where more than 85 percent or 13 out of 15 journalists polled, in an albeit unscientific and statistically significant survey, have not even heard of or have not thought of using the latest technological marvel?

Written by Christiani Ajeng