Journalism is hardly the only profession to feel the pressing weight of the digital era. But will traditional media in the modern era go the way of milkmen, switchboard operators, and video store clerks? Or even travel agents and taxi drivers, both fading fast against the rise of newer business models and AI to replace human labor?

For a long time, newspapers, magazines, and other traditional media seemed like a profession that would never fade. Media companies were the authority. They had the news, the truths we couldn’t reach. They were trusted. Now, people are starting to wonder . . .

Why do we need journalists running around when every bystander has a smartphone and drones can go places humans can’t reach? How do you keep up with fact checking in an age when everyone has access to the internet and deep fakes are so believable?

Traditional media the world over is under fire for bias and sensationalism, but without it, we’re left to merciless fake news. Herein lies the opportunity of the Technovate era: AI could transform traditional media into something newer, better, and more trustworthy than ever. Faisal J. Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News, shares his perspective on how traditional media in the modern era could transform—given the right application of AI and the right business model.

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Speaker: Faisal J. Abbas, Editor-in-Chief, Arab News
Moderator: Pallavi Aiyar, Freelance Journalist
Filmed at the G1 Global Conference, Sept. 16, 2019


Pallavi Aiyar (00:12):

As a journalist myself, and with two representatives here from the media, I think it’s natural to explore questions this morning about the impact of the digital transformation on the news and media industries. The fact is that consumers all around the world have become used to and have a certain expectation of free information these days, and that makes it very challenging in particular for legacy media that were based on a very different set of assumptions. Anybody with a mobile phone in their hand today in some ways has as much weight as The New York Times, depending on who the consumer of that information is out there.

Faisal J. Abbas (00:54):

So basically, we can’t go back in time and we can’t go against the tide. We can either curse the darkness or decide to light a candle. The biggest struggle [in the newsroom] is always between time and getting it right. It used to be bad when there was one edition or one news bulletin. Imagine the pressure that you’re under now because everybody’s tweeting it and everybody’s doing it. And then you’re kind of crushed between seeing people telling you [that] you are too slow or you are too afraid to publish or somebody out-scooped you.

If artificial intelligence created this problem, then I believe artificial intelligence can also solve this problem. Essentially, what artificial intelligence could do is free up our time. To take a lighthearted topic, a football match, for example, you don’t need to send a journalist to tell you that Manchester United defeated Manchester City. You can find that immediately live, etc. There are platforms which will give you the information straightaway.

But you do need a journalist on the ground to go into the locker room with access, which a robot cannot do, through personal relations, get an exclusive interview with the manager or with one of the players. This is where the human touch matters in a very simple example.

There is a glimmer of hope in technology. It has the ability to make our jobs easier, but we really need to get together to find the business model that works for traditional publishers to do their job.

Watch the full panel here: Digital Media and the Transformation of Societies

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