AI couldn’t care less. Journalists will care more. 

“What would it take for you to orient your interactions to ensure that the people you engage with, report on, and report for get the signal that you and your newsroom really care?”

In September of this year, Mattia Peretti, manager of JournalismAI, stressed to stressed-out journalists that “AI is not stealing your job.”

But with show-stopping releases like ChatGPT and DALL-E, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for not just writers, but also art departments, to feel like their jobs as they know them are safe for long.

So what’s a person committed to this art and craft of journalism to do in order to future-proof their careers? I predict (hope) that folks should invest heavily in what AI can’t do: care.

The activist, scholar, and poet Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

It’s easy to forget that every interaction that journalists and other newsroom staff have with the public — be that sources, readers, viewers, members, subscribers, commenters, etc. — is an opportunity to influence people to feel something.

Journalism isn’t just extracting information and molding it into formats and products. There is always a by-product of a relationship — whether that’s between journalist and source, organization that’s reported on and newsroom, community that journalism is about and community that journalism is for. To neglect the fact that every interaction carries its own kind of psychological metadata that adds up to shape how people experience the world, your newsroom, and you, is to not wield the power that’s actually most in your control: how you show up.

Showing up is not a matter of just being present, physically or virtually, to witness and record. It’s actually an extremely sophisticated and subtle combination of thoughts, intentions and behaviors manifested into action.

I hope that in 2023, journalists will begin asking themselves questions like:

  • Are you aware of the power you wield in a situation, based on what identities you carry with you or are perceived to have?
  • Do you consciously work to ensure the people you’re interviewing feel truly heard and understood? Or are you rushing in to grab a quote and leaving them in the dust because: deadlines?
  • Did the people you reported on feel like you got it right in the end? How do you know?

To quote another powerhouse, Gloria Steinem, “If you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them. If you want people to change how they live, you have to know how they live. If you want people to see you, you have to sit down with them eye to eye.”

So, until the people you’re interviewing, reporting on, and serving are sitting down eye-to-AI with your newsroom, here’s a list of opportunities, made a little more whimsical and approachable as a bingo board than a bullet-pointed list, that I’m hopeful more real-life humans of newsrooms will invest in 2023 and beyond. (Get a PDF copy with links here.)

I can only imagine how the trust barometer that Americans have in their news sources could be positively lifted if the millions of interactions and touchpoints that any given newsroom has in the course of a year were consciously caring.

What would it take for you to orient your interactions to ensure the people you engage with, report on and report for, get the signal that you and your newsroom really care?

I predict that, in 2023, journalists will consult more often with the piece of technology they carry on their person 24/7: Their brains. For quality control, they should always get an edit from their hearts.

Thanks to SRCCON:CARE for the brilliant conference on care in journalism, and for inspiring the collaborative session called “Curiosity As Care” with Mónica Guzmán that led to this post.

And for a metric ton of inspiration, check out this fresh guide from Free Press.

In September of this year, Mattia Peretti, manager of JournalismAI, stressed to stressed-out journalists that “AI is not stealing your job.”

But with show-stopping releases like ChatGPT and DALL-E, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for not just writers, but also art departments, to feel like their jobs as they know them are safe for long.

So what’s a person committed to this art and craft of journalism to do in order to future-proof their careers? I predict (hope) that folks should invest heavily in what AI can’t do: care.

The activist, scholar, and poet Maya Angelou famously said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

It’s easy to forget that every interaction that journalists and other newsroom staff have with the public — be that sources, readers, viewers, members, subscribers, commenters, etc. — is an opportunity to influence people to feel something.

Journalism isn’t just extracting information and molding it into formats and products. There is always a by-product of a relationship — whether that’s between journalist and source, organization that’s reported on and newsroom, community that journalism is about and community that journalism is for. To neglect the fact that every interaction carries its own kind of psychological metadata that adds up to shape how people experience the world, your newsroom, and you, is to not wield the power that’s actually most in your control: how you show up.

Showing up is not a matter of just being present, physically or virtually, to witness and record. It’s actually an extremely sophisticated and subtle combination of thoughts, intentions and behaviors manifested into action.

I hope that in 2023, journalists will begin asking themselves questions like:

  • Are you aware of the power you wield in a situation, based on what identities you carry with you or are perceived to have?
  • Do you consciously work to ensure the people you’re interviewing feel truly heard and understood? Or are you rushing in to grab a quote and leaving them in the dust because: deadlines?
  • Did the people you reported on feel like you got it right in the end? How do you know?

To quote another powerhouse, Gloria Steinem, “If you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them. If you want people to change how they live, you have to know how they live. If you want people to see you, you have to sit down with them eye to eye.”

So, until the people you’re interviewing, reporting on, and serving are sitting down eye-to-AI with your newsroom, here’s a list of opportunities, made a little more whimsical and approachable as a bingo board than a bullet-pointed list, that I’m hopeful more real-life humans of newsrooms will invest in 2023 and beyond. (Get a PDF copy with links here.)

I can only imagine how the trust barometer that Americans have in their news sources could be positively lifted if the millions of interactions and touchpoints that any given newsroom has in the course of a year were consciously caring.

What would it take for you to orient your interactions to ensure the people you engage with, report on and report for, get the signal that you and your newsroom really care?

I predict that, in 2023, journalists will consult more often with the piece of technology they carry on their person 24/7: Their brains. For quality control, they should always get an edit from their hearts.

Thanks to SRCCON:CARE for the brilliant conference on care in journalism, and for inspiring the collaborative session called “Curiosity As Care” with Mónica Guzmán that led to this post.

And for a metric ton of inspiration, check out this fresh guide from Free Press.

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