With advancements in AI tools being rolled out at breakneck pace, journalists face the task of reporting developments with the appropriate nuance and context—to audiences who may be encountering this kind of technology for the first time.
But sometimes this coverage has been alarmist. The linguist and social critic Noam Chomsky criticized “hyperbolic headlines” in a New York Times op-ed. And there have been a lot of them.
“Bing’s A.I. Chat: ‘I Want to Be Alive. ’” “‘Godfather of AI’ says AI could kill humans and there might be no way to stop it.” “Could ChatGPT write my book—and feed my kids?” “Meet ChatGPT, the scarily intelligent robot who can do your job better than you.” “Microsoft’s new ChatGPT AI starts sending ‘unhinged’ messages to people.’’ “What is AI chatbot phenomenon ChatGPT and could it replace humans?”
In order to better understand how ChatGPT is being covered by newsrooms, we interviewed a variety of academics and journalists on how the media has been framing coverage of generative AI chatbots. We also pulled data on the volume of coverage in online news using the Media Cloud database and on TV news using data from the Internet TV News Archive, which we acquired via The GDELT Project’s API, in order to get a sketch of the coverage so far.
News reporting of new technologies often takes the pattern of a hype cycle, said Felix M. Simon, a doctoral researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute and Tow Center fellow. First, “It starts with a new technology which leads to all kinds of expectations and promises”. ChatGPT’s initial press release promised a chatbot that “interacts in a conversational way”. Next, media coverage branches into two extremes: “We have people say it’s the nearing apocalypse for industry XYZ or democracy,” or, alternatively, “it promises all kinds of utopias which will be brought about by the technology,” Simon said. Finally, after a few months, a more nuanced period of coverage—away from catastrophe or utopia—to discuss real-world impacts. “That’s when the cycle starts to cool off again.”
But coverage of generative AI chatbots like ChatGPT seems unlikely to be cooling off anytime soon. [Continue reading…]