Job cuts hitting Europe’s top-selling tabloid Bild are just the start of what’s to come as print publications prioritize digital media and embrace AI.
In a memo to staff reported by German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine on June 19, Axel Springer, Bild’s parent company, announced a reorganization that will cut around 200 roles.
Bild employs about 1,000 people and will discontinue six of its 18 regional editions, closing two-thirds of its regional offices.
CNN quoted the memo as saying
“We’re starting an AI offensive because we need it for our move to digital-only…AI will soon be able to completely take over the printed newspaper.”
Jobs like editor-in-chief, sub-editors, and photo editors won’t exist like they do today.
Berlin-based Axel Springer is one of Europe’s biggest media companies and also owns US titles like Politico and Insider.
CEO Mathias Döpfner said in a February memo to staff that they’re aiming to become a “purely digital media company,” and give AI tools like ChatGPT the chance to “make independent journalism better than ever before – or replace it.”
A Bild spokesperson told the Guardian that exploring AI in the newsroom will “improve journalism and keep independent journalism going for years to come.”
AI has vast limitations
ChatGPT is trained on trillions of data points to make its answers more human-like, but its ability to generate balanced reporting hasn’t been tested much. In February, some users raised concerns about political bias when the chatbot reportedly refused to write a poem about former US President Donald Trump saying it’d be inappropriate, but wrote one about current US President Joe Biden. It’s also been widely criticized for lacking emotional intelligence, not understanding different contexts, being inaccurate and unable to generate long-form content needed for in-depth news reporting and investigations.
Despite advances in their capabilities, AI chatbots still struggle with writing articles with specific tones like humor and lack the capability to produce original reviews like reporters do. They also tend to plagiarize and repurpose content without credit, which could create an explosion of misinformation.
“I’m optimistic about this tech but it poses huge risks for journalism when it comes to verifying content authenticity,”
said Chris Berend, head of digital at NBC.