Telum Talks To: Dr Asha Chand, Associate Dean International at Western Sydney University | Part Two

Telum Talks To: Dr Asha Chand, Associate Dean International at Western Sydney University | Part Two

What role do you believe AI could or will play in the future of journalism and media?
I think that AI and ChatGPT are here to stay, and new versions of these possibilities will be invented during my lifetime. We have become intrigued by AI because of the meteoric rise of ChatGPT, which can almost instantly bring out information and present a response on any topic. As a mechanical tool, AI can compute large data faster than a human being. Besides writing "good essays" on any topic, advanced AI can perfectly imitate a person’s voice after listening to it for only three seconds. It can de-code and read a person’s thoughts. AI generated work, in time, will result in famous faces saying things they never said in real life. This is where good journalism, its function to record history, would be needed more than ever.

We are already seeing how social media platforms have become sites for disinformation, misinformation, hate speeches, bullying, and propaganda. Let us not forget that social media and AI are portals that humans use and have created. Journalists will always be needed, now more than ever, because as human beings who are aware, they are able to seek the truth, hold power to account, conduct ethical research and fact check, and present news with accuracy. These perennial attributes of good journalism, coupled with the demand for empathy, care about the world and its people can’t be replaced by computers, which can’t have any form of awareness or experience.

AI can speed up journalists' work crunch data, provide research, bring out historical records etc. We already have 24-hour news cycles - how much faster and more do we need in a saturated space? We need quality, which the combination of human awareness and AI can achieve.

Can you discuss the role of media literacy in an era of misinformation and fake news?
Literacy is vital for a basic level of survival in this world. I have grown up seeing my loved ones being sidelined and labelled unimportant because they could not read or write. Education at all levels, for everyone, including children and adults, is important. We need to invest in educating society and create a love for learning at every stage of life. Media literacy is even more important because our lives revolve around media - all forms of communication such as the use of smartphones.

Lack of literacy in the space can lead to major blunders such as responding to frauds and disclosing private and sensitive information. We need to be able to differentiate between misinformation / fake news and the real news at a time when those presenting the fake can be so convincing and unrelenting. How do we consistently keep our guard up? This kind of living can become torture.

The only way out is to educate everyone and provide this level of education free to the masses. Despite having so much information, news, and data in the palm of our hands, at the press of a button, we are still so ill-informed because misinformation, rumours, and lies are allowed to spread at the same or faster speed than real news. Owners of the media platforms need to take responsibility, filter, and restrict what people post. Those who spread fake news must be accountable in the ways that journalists get scrutinised.

What disappoints you nowadays that is a common theme in journalism?
I make a conscious effort to be happy and content. I know that I do not have the power to change the world, but I can make my own meaningful contributions - which I do through all kinds of work I do and the energies I bring into the spaces I live and work in. I do get disappointed when I see time, resources such as water, food, and energy being wasted. I do not hesitate to call out those I am responsible for including my students, family, and colleagues when I see such wastage.

Any advice for students and younger journalists trying to crack into the industry?
Be curious. Be your authentic self and ask questions. Be willing to learn, fall, make mistakes. Remember that you can rise repeatedly and carve a good career if your intentions are good, and you practice ethical research without fear or favour. Mitigate your biases (we all have this as humans) through thorough research, fact checking, and present the best version of news and yourself when working.

We need good journalists and the best of journalism to navigate through this complex and changing world. We need you to care about our communities and the world. In the great Mahatma Gandhi’s words: "Be the Change you want to see in the world."

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