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“The Cut” is a weekly reporters notebook-type essay by an Ideastream Public Media content creator, reflecting on the news and on life in Northeast Ohio. What exactly does “The Cut” mean? It's a throwback to the old days of using a razor blade to cut analog tape. In radio lingo, we refer to sound bites as “cuts.” So think of these behind-the-scene essays as “cuts” from Ideastream's producers.

This story, like all of our journalism, was created by a person, not a machine

OpenAI's ChatGPT app is displayed on an iPhone.
Richard Drew
Ideastream Public Media will exercise caution and develop guidelines for the use of Artificial Intelligence.

Last weekend I went over to my son Harrison’s house in Bratenahl, just east of Cleveland, to help with some yard work. I was sweeping his patio when, much to my surprise, a pudgy groundhog with a pup in her mouth came ambling by and gave me a look as if to say, “What are you doing in my backyard?” I saw her a few more times that afternoon and hope to see her again this summer.

That got me thinking: What should I call her? So, like many of us these days, I used ChatGPT to suggest some cute name ideas. If you haven’t heard, ChatGPT is one example of something called generative artificial intelligence, generative AI, or GAI. It employs machine learning to create human-like responses based on user input.

A new survey commissioned by Microsoft and LinkedIn indicates that 75% of knowledge workers now use AI at work and 46% of users started using it less than six months ago. Every department here at Ideastream Public Media is using it. That’s one reason we recently organized a cross-departmental working group to test different free GAI products and services.

The aim is to create efficiencies in our work across all of Ideastream so more staff time can be allocated to creative and higher-level tasks. But using GAI in our newsroom -- or, in many cases, not using it -- deserves special and careful considerations. NPR recently added a GAI special section to its ethics handbook, which lays out some of the reasons we need to be careful about using it in our own newsroom.

For example:

  • Plagiarism and accuracy are major concerns with GAI, which scrapes the Internet for information and material and uses that material to generate seemingly new products. If it scrapes bad information, it creates a bad product. 
  • GAI doesn't know what it doesn't know. As journalists we constantly question our assumptions, one of the most important being: Have we included all of the viewpoints and aspects of the story we are covering? 
  • GAI can't check its own biases. It has no sense of ethics or morals. 

As an interim step, we adopted NPR’s guidelines for using GAI in our own newsroom, but we plan to do more research and, later this summer, add a GAI section to our existing Ideastream Public Media Editorial Ethics and Guidelines document.

One provision we will surely add into our guidelines is an idea from Chad Davis, chief innovation officer of Nebraska Public Media. , He describes it as “People First / People Last.”

“People First” means our newsroom will only consider using GAI that expands human capabilities over automation that could displace jobs. “People Last” means that in our newsroom, we will make certain that human oversight is essential to ensuring that what GAI creates aligns with our values, quality standards and ethics.

I’m all for new technologies, but in the end, I believe legendary Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes got it right when he said, “You win with people.” It is our hosts, reporters and producers that make great journalism. In fact, just this week we learned that Ideastream Public Media earned five regional Edward R. Murrow awards. Five! In a region that includes Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. More than any other media organization in the region. Chat GPT can help generate a lot of things, but not the kind of storytelling that earns five prestigious journalism awards.

I want you to know that if we ever use AI in our work, we’ll do it in a way that aids and enhances the efforts of our talented staff, and we will be transparent about the process. No one will try to pass off a machine’s work for our own. Ever.

In case you were wondering, ChatGPT suggested I call the groundhog in Harrison’s back yard “Hazel.” Here is what it said: “It's a classic and nature-inspired name that suits a groundhog. Plus, it has a warm and friendly feel to it, perfect for a backyard visitor like her.”

I kind of like it. But if you saw the way Hazel looked at me last weekend, it was clear that I was the visitor. Not her!

"The Cut" is featured in Ideastream Public Media's weekly newsletter, The Frequency Week in Review. To get The Frequency Week in Review, The Daily Frequency or any of our newsletters, sign up on Ideastream's newsletter subscription page.

Mark A. Rosenberger is the chief content officer for Ideastream Public Media.