AI Writers Transcribe, Human Writers Bring Perspective and Experience to the Craft
The opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of RedState.com.
The writers at the Huffington Post, which are part of a small union, are threatening to strike if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached by midnight on Tuesday. As inherent in most union bargaining, they want caviar in the sky on a Frosted Flakes work ethic.
From The Wrap:
Members of the HuffPost Union issued a statement Monday that they are ready to strike if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached before the current contract expires Tuesday at midnight.
“With two days of bargaining left, 98% of the 91-member HuffPost Union signed on to a strike pledge, committing to strike if a fair agreement is not reached,” read the statement. The union will continue negotiating with HuffPost and parent company BuzzFeed through Tuesday.
The strike pledge, which was delivered to management during Monday’s bargaining session, reads, “We, the members of the HuffPost Union, are committed to a collective bargaining agreement that reflects the realities of the economy, our changing industry, and the issues most important to our unit.”
Union members are seeking “competitive compensation, annual wage increases that keep up with the cost of living, fair severance, a secure financial future, health and safety provisions that acknowledge COVID-19 is still a work hazard, a real path to career growth, and a slate of benefits and company policies that match HuffPost’s stated interest in worker well-being, health and safety.”
“We will not accept any collective bargaining agreement without these guarantees. We are prepared to strike,” the statement continued.
I don’t think this is a very wise approach to the threat that your jobs can be done by machines. https://t.co/bT3ANCRRTW
— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) January 31, 2023
Yeah, good luck with that. Ask former Vox writers how well their union represented them.
making a rare twitter post to share that my role was eliminated during the recent vox layoffs. i truly loved working at recode. but now, i’m looking for new work. i’ve covered everything from space to the supply chain. here’s some of the recent work i’m most proud of:
— reb heilweil (@rebheilweil) January 23, 2023
They only have a few hours left, so we’ll see how well it goes for HuffPost.
As my colleague Brad Slager wrote a few weeks ago:
What could possibly be the downside of AI reporters and robotic lawyers?!
The question inevitably will be asked – is this the cause, or the reaction? What I refer to is the emergence of stories where we find automatons being dispatched to take over the duties of humans, and the ensuing mysteries become evident. In an economy where the dollar is shrinking and we have a moribund workforce, is this cause for alarm or an expected result?
I say expected result, but not necessarily a bad one. AI-generated stories can be used to make great parody, as The Babylon Bee has demonstrated with its AI writer that generates mocking stories about AOC, a person who deserves to be mocked at every opportunity.
But even though news outlets are using them on the regular, they will never replace the writer, the scribe, the fabulist, the people who actually work and hone their craft. Sadly, what they will eliminate are the places where the craft was allowed gestation and refinement. Internships, cub reporters, entry-level journalists will now be a thing of the past, as the legacy shops, which have absorbed most of the local reporting arms (Hello, McClatchy and Gannett), no longer offer those opportunities because the AI can do it.
So, what we do here at RedState, and places like The College Fix will become more essential.
In 2008, after I was laid off from my last full-time corporate job, I started an online writing beat on “Faith & Community” at a site called Examiner.com. It presented me with a wonderful opportunity to not only jump-start a writing career that I had allowed to go dormant, but to hone my writing skills, and promote ideas, people, and organizations that I believed in and wanted to platform. I did this for seven years. That is, until the publishers of the site unceremoniously announced that they were closing it out, and would not keep the server live to access our bylines. Unless you’re an Uber hacker, for all intents and purposes, Examiner.com never existed.
What replaced it? Axios. Before shutting down Examiner, Axios offered an opportunity for some of their writers to come over and basically transcribe press releases. I said, “No, thanks.” However, that seven years of honing my skills, my voice, and my craft paid off on other online platforms and ultimately led me to RedState. So, not only do I have a known body of work, a reputation, and a brand, but I now have a career that outlives any publication I may write for.
Not so much with these HuffPost writers and others like them. The resourcefulness required to not only track down a story, but follow it to its completion is no longer being taught in J-School, and doesn’t appear to be resident in this generation. They are taught a lot about activism and causes, and not a whole lot about how to critically think or to craft and present a well-documented story. Yet, they expect another gig with full benefits to be handed to them on a silver platter, and then to be pointed in the direction of the agenda to transcribe some more.
What exactly is lost with this new AI landscape? Apprenticeship programs that teach just what I outlined above. These are skills and tools that can only be learned from experience and relationship with other quality writers and editors. The editors I wrote under at Washington Times Communities and Communities Digital News were instrumental in helping me shape my writing, as are the editors at RedState. Sadly, legacy media rarely affords those opportunities, and with the increased usage of AI, these will probably disappear altogether.
The best piece of advice I received as a young writer some 30 years ago was at a writer’s conference with some pretty big names. I had the chance for one of those names to read a piece of my work, and it was quite nerve-wracking, but an essential lesson in learning to be critiqued in order to get better. I was expecting some meaty advice about tone, word usage, how to develop a story. Surprisingly, I received none of this. He read my work, told me I was a good writer, smiled, and simply said: “Keep writing.”
While I was expecting more, years later I realize that was all I needed. I took his advice to heart, and these many years later, I still am. Just writing has taught me how to write, and keeps me on the continual journey of becoming a better writer.
AI may replace the compositional functionality of a writer, but it will never produce work that incorporates and translates the unique perspective and experience that makes one’s writing distinctive and therefore of value. A John Steinbeck, a Zora Neale Hurston, and a Jennifer Oliver O’Connell are neither born nor auto-generated; like a fine sculpture, they are shaped and molded by life and practice.