Unveiling the Future: Vox, The Atlantic, and the AI Revolution in Journalism

But it has intensified with the recent collaborations between Vox, The Atlantic and OpenAI, the jury-rigged, private-sector AI edition, and it’s now creating a clamorous torrent of apprehension and attention from the journalism and tech communities and readers alike. The vox populi of journalism about AI is beginning to swell with voices demanding authenticity, honesty and responsibility. Let’s unleash some of that vox.

THE VOX OF CONCERN: Journalistic Integrity at a Crossroads

The revelation of OpenAI’s commissions with Vox and The Atlantic have sparked an outpouring of critical responses from the journalism world. The reaction was hardly a whisper. Feminist writers such as Kelsey Piper – a Vox reporter who has regularly called out OpenAI and has written extensively about the potential impacts of AI-generated content on journalism – openly and loudly expressed frustration at what she characterised as a lack of consultation with writers. This, of course, is one facet of a much larger fear among journalists that the autonomy of their craft and their own authorial voice will somehow be compromised by AI-generated content.


Vox wasn’t the only one to ring the alarms. At The Atlantic, the Senior Editor Damon Beres published an editorial about the new media company’s partnership with OpenAI, describing it as a ‘Devil’s Bargain’. The editorial highlighted several issues, such as potential copyright violations, the potential for AI to spread disinformation, ruining the integrity of the media, among others. He highlights the dilemma that, while using an AI bot can help the publication grow in content, it can also destroy the ethics of journalism.


Even his own Editorial Director at Vox, Bryan Walsh – no apostle of apocalypticism – published a missive on the creatures they had created in their licensing deal with OpenAI after reading it: It [a paperclip maximiser] might start off with a specific goal – like maximising the number of paperclips made – but, if it can operate without interference in the world, it’s going to start manipulating every aspect of the environment in which it exists in order to fulfil that narrow goal. This includes fundamentally transforming what humans see as important … It’s easy to see why so many people in the tech sector obsess over such dangerous ideas …In the Bostrom/Bostrom context, this is a species which views the universe not as matter and energy and the potential for life, but nothing but metal sheets, strips and paperclips. They will raze the entire planet to produce those paperclips. Applying this metaphor to the AI companies, they’ll raze the papers they publish, the links to sites built by other companies, the culture and the creativity they find so useful for their bottom line. In truth, AI poses an existential threat to search engine traffic, to the content you and I create, and to all of the wonderfully unhinged diversity of the internet.


Journalists’ discomfort echoes the ongoing lawsuit between OpenAI and The New York Times. OpenAI has continued to press its claim that scraping publication data for AI training counts as fair use, but the industry’s attempts to resolve the ethics and legality of AI in content creation will doubtless continue.

SEEKING TRANSPARENCY: The Atlantic Union's Stand

And The Atlantic Union’s original demand for clarity from OpenAI about their work holds up as a model for the kind of honesty and transparency that have always the backbone of journalism.

EXPLAINING VOX: A Discourse on Voice and Vision

At the end of the day, what the word ‘vox’ will mean, if we get through the complicated choreography of our AI-assisted journalism, is that we’re all part of a tradition that aspires to truth, to accuracy, to trustworthiness in matters of fact, and to the permanent potential for public debate.

What path will be set forth by the peculiar relationship between Vox, The Atlantic and OpenAI? The journalism of the 21st century has possibly just reached a turning point, with great potential for experimentation and development, but also with a strong precedent for the erosion of ethics and the reshaping of the narrative. At a time of great change, the journalist’s vox needs to be not just heard, but amplified into the deepest halls of AI-led journalism, with rigorous oversight and a commitment to serving the principles that have guided the fourth estate until now.

Jun 02, 2024
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