As AI picks up more steam, you may be wondering if and how you should use it in your newsroom.
We’ve been experimenting with it for a while now, and there are some definite opportunities with it, but also some areas where it just doesn’t work.
We ventured into the AI world using ChatGPT, a tool using dialogue format to answer your questions. ChatGPT can be used for a variety of reasons and prompts, but we’re specifically talking about using it to write and source articles.
Here’s what we’ve found.
Leave the writing to the writers
One of the first things we tried was asking ChatGPT to write a news story from a press release. It did an OK job and followed the basic inverted pyramid format you look for, but many of the details were off. Had we published the story as it was cranked out by ChatGPT, we would have gotten plenty of calls about inaccuracies.
However, what it did do was create a nice base to work from, where the writer could fact check the story, improve any grammar or syntax errors and add any additional details to what was generated. Did it save a lot of time because we had to go back and check everything? Not necessarily.
Use it to gather info
Where it has been helpful, though, is when it comes time to gather information.
If you’re writing a story listing out urgent cares in the area, like we did this story here, it can be very helpful. Instead of scouring the internet, ChatGPT did some of that work for us.
We asked ChatGPT to list the urgent care facilities in the given area, and it generated a number of options with some basic details including the addresses and websites. We then took that list and fact checked each of those locations to make sure they were indeed in the area and still open, and then followed the sites to add more details that we wanted the story to include.
Sometimes, the hardest part of creating these guides is finding the locations to include, so it was useful there and saved some time by doing some of that work for us.
We’ve gone on to use this method to create some additional resource guides, and more often than not, using ChatGPT to help find the information has been helpful.
But, the key has been the wording in which you make your request to ChatGPT. You may have to try to ask a couple of different ways or some follow-up questions to really narrow down to the info you are seeking.
For example, when we searched for “sports programs for kids” in a specific city, it produced a general list of locations to check like the YMCA and parks and rec departments. Again, this could be helpful to source some options, but we wanted to be able to mention specific leagues. So by changing the search to “sports programs and leagues for kids,” we yielded the more specific results we were looking for.
More examples of stories created using ChatGPT:
- Get your kids active with these youth sports programs in Decatur
- 4 daycares in Brookhaven worth checking out for your kids
- 5 waterparks you have to visit this summer in North Texas
- 7 places to get a drink in Flower Mound
Don’t count on timeliness
We tried out ChatGPT to create some upcoming event listicles, as well, but didn’t have as much success. As it notes, ChatGPT does not have access to real-time data or the ability to browse the internet for you.
In fact, it always would give the following disclaimer: “While I don’t have access to real-time event information, I can provide you with some examples of events that commonly take place. However, please note that the dates and specific events may vary each year. It’s recommended to check local event listings or official websites for the most up-to-date information closer to your desired timeframe.”
It was helpful identifying large, annual events that have been taking place for some time now, but if you’re looking to generate a list of fun things for your readers to do this weekend, ChatGPT is not the answer. If you’re looking more to create a list of big, annual summer events to look out for, it could be helpful.
Use it like a press release
While it was never our goal, it became pretty clear very quickly that ChatGPT does not replace the work of a writer.
But we can use ChatGPT to help writing articles. Think of using it in the same way you would a press release.
When you’re given a press release, you don’t take it exactly as it is and publish it to your site. You may do some tweaking on the verbiage to match your site’s tone, you may do some fact checking, and you may even do some follow-up.
That’s exactly how we are using ChatGPT.
Use the technology to help gather information, then fact check that information—a process that can be significantly quicker than trying to locate all of the info on your own. Then, use that to create your story, listicle, resource guide, etc.
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