Germany's Newspaper “Bild” will replace Staff with AI

EU | June 21, 2023, Wednesday // 10:07|  views

Europe's best-selling newspaper, German tabloid "Bild" plans to replace a number of editorial positions with artificial intelligence as part of a €100m cost-cutting program, Britain's "Guardian" reported, citing emails sent to the paper's staff. The group will also reorganize its business with regional newspapers, which will lead to hundreds of redundancies in total.

The tabloid "will unfortunately part ways with colleagues whose tasks in the digital world are performed by AI and/or automated processes," the owner of Europe's largest media publisher Axel Springer said in the letters to staff. The correspondence, seen by rival Frankfurter Allgemeine (FAZ), said the posts of "editors, print production staff, proofreaders and photo editors editors will no longer exist as before".

The news follows a previous announcement in February by CEO Mathias Döpfner that the publishing company would be a "purely digital media company". AI tools like ChatGPT can “make independent journalism better than ever before – or replace it,” he said.

Döpfner predicted that artificial intelligence will soon be better at "summarizing information" than "human journalists" and said that only journalists who create "the best original content" - such as investigative journalism and original commentary - will survive.

Bild did not have an immediate estimate of the number of jobs that could ultimately be lost to AI.

Springer isn't the first news publisher to turn its attention to artificial intelligence. BuzzFeed announced this year that it aims to use AI to "enhance" content and online quizzes, while the UK's Daily Mirror and Daily Express are also exploring the use of artificial intelligence.

AI tools like ChatGPT can generate highly complex text from simple user prompts, creating everything from essays and job applications to poems and artwork, but its responses are sometimes inaccurate or even made up.

Men's Journal and tech website Cnet also use AI to generate articles that are later reviewed for accuracy by editors — although Cnet acknowledged in January that the project was limited after reports that more than half of the articles needed to be corrected.

In April, the publishers of German weekly magazine Die Aktuelle fired their editor and apologized to Michael Schumacher's family after publishing an "interview" with the Formula 1 legend that was entirely generated by AI.

The seven-time Formula One world champion, 54, has not been seen in public since December 2013, when he suffered a serious brain injury in a skiing accident in the French Alps. His family filed a lawsuit against the magazine's publishers.

Bild has said it will seek to avoid forced redundancies where possible, but wants to reduce its editorial staff by three digits, or around 200 jobs, while also reducing regional print editions from 18 to 12.

The email was signed by four of the newspaper's top managers, including editors-in-chief Marion Horn and Robert Schneider, rival FAZ reported. It is thought that similar measures can eventually be expected in the group's flagship daily, "Die Welt".

Döpfner had already embarked on sweeping personnel changes at the tabloid, where sales had fallen from 4.5 million 20 years ago to just over 1 million last year, in an effort to turn around its disappointing financial performance and recover from a series of scandals.

The influential daily, whose sensational, highly politicized reporting is often compared to that of Britain's "The Sun", has been forced to fire its former editor Julian Reichelt amid allegations that he tried to cover up sexual misconduct and harassment.

Earlier this year, Döpfner had to apologize after leaked texts revealed he had tried to use "Bild" to influence the latest German election.

The Association of German Journalists (DJV) criticized Springer's plans, warning that job cuts at "Bild" would "kill the group's cash cow". The move is "not only anti-social to employees, but extremely stupid from an economic point of view," DJV said in a statement.

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Tags: AI, Bild, Artificial Intelligence, German, chatgpt


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