The Evolution of AI: A Journalist’s Perspective
Much like I clung to the MySpace page I had perfectly coded with HTML to reflect my personality, I clung to the art of writing to spit in the face of AI. While I eventually gave up MySpace for Facebook and was all the better (or worse, who knows) for doing so, I also begrudgingly looked into the world of AI.
I didn’t see it as a tool. I saw it as a dragon to slay.
Before I knew enough about it to love or hate it, I was getting assignments from various writing clients NEVER to USE AI! Yet, some of these same clients would sell their AI services to clients. How can you admonish it by one account and upgrade price points in another realm?
I soon realized that too many people were chasing their tales based on lack of information while the way information is presented was changing again. I wasn’t going to be the last MySpace page this time. I certainly wasn’t going to waste energy like a dog chasing its tale.
I sat in front of my computer late one night when a revelation struck me. I had been an AI robot for quite some time now.
AI Doesn’t Mean FU
The argument against using AI from content platforms and clients is that it lacks originality. The purpose of paying a writer is to get their unique skillsets wrapped up in words that grand slam the message home.
That seems legit, right? I think I have a certain talent for writing certain things using my vast knowledge as a curious human, ADHD-driven abilities to deep dive into topics, and an insistence on “getting it right” every time, even at the expense of time, which is compensated in per-word rates.
I have now come to see a ban on AI content is as asinine as a newspaper in the 1980s refusing to use computers because the typewriter was the lord of the land. You can word in tandem with AI to create great content. To ignore it or solely rely on it is the fault in our stars.
You’re Already Trusting AI, Kinda
Pinning “original content” as the key factor in the dislike of AI, how can you then turn to another program and trust it with 100% accuracy?
I have nearly a dozen clients, which ebb and flow. Each one has specific rules for the content. Beyond the style guides of using formats like AP style that keep content appearance consistent, if you’re using Yoast SEO or another SEO program that “rates” writing, isn’t that a form of AI?
I can 100% confirm that when I bend to the rules of SEO writing guidelines, I am not writing original content.
When incorporating SEO adjustments into writing, the originality of the content can be altered in several ways. Here are a few examples:
- Keyword Optimization: SEO often requires the strategic use of specific keywords throughout the content. While integrating these keywords is necessary for search engine visibility, it may influence the flow and natural progression of the writing. The focus shifts from pure originality to incorporating targeted keywords effectively.
- Structural Changes: SEO guidelines often recommend using headers, subheadings, and bullet points to improve readability and enhance search engine rankings. These structural modifications may impact the original flow and organization of the content, as it is no longer solely driven by the writer’s creative preferences.
- Meta Information: Crafting meta titles and descriptions that attract clicks from search engine results is an important aspect of SEO. While this involves summarizing the content accurately, it also requires using persuasive language and incorporating keywords. These adjustments may deviate from the writer’s initial focus or intended tone.
Ultimately, implementing SEO adjustments in writing aims to improve the discoverability and relevance of content for both search engines and readers. While it may introduce changes that affect the pure originality of the work, it is important to strike a balance between SEO requirements and maintaining the essence of the writer’s voice and message.
Here’s an example of SEO optimization roadblocks: I was writing an article about a place called the Primitive Trail. I bowed to the SEO program gods and fixed everything, but that nagging red light was still there. “Primitive” was not an inclusive word. I had no way to explain that it was a proper noun and the name of a location. It was impossible to write and article about the Primitive Trail without using the word Primitive. Yet every use of the world, which was an SEO keyword, was making my story less likely to track. Yet I can’t explain to SEO the reasoning. It’s judge, jury, and warden.
Striking the Balance Between Originality, SEO, and AI
In another example, I have a client I adore that has a section in every single one of the 200+ and growing story list that is the same thing. For client protection, let’s say this example is “How to get through airport security.”
Can you think of 200+ ways to say that without being redundant? Despite my best efforts, I continue to get Copyscape violations for being too similar TO MY OWN SEO-RICH PUBLISHED WORK! Do you know who can come up with 200+ ways to say it?? AI!
Let’s add to that. Writers work on a per-word price, generally two cents to a dollar a word (though, let’s be honest, it’s closer to two cents). If I’m writing 2000 words for you on safety visiting a certain city, would you rather I burn minutes trying to say another iteration of airport security or digging into the latest facts of that city?
Are you willing to pay more if you want BOTH to be heavily invested in a writer’s time?
Much like clients use SEO as a tool to make content better at the lowest possible cost, why would you prohibit the things that AI CAN do right?
Know What Kind of Writer You Want
Then there’s this next level of hiring a writer. I shudder to say I’m a writer because I’m a journalist, even when writing low-hanging fruit of content. I can spot an AI inaccuracy a mile away. I also take the time to correct AI in the hopes I’m making the neural network smarter.
At the same time, I am **THIS** close to never using Google again for the SEO long tail keyword/hummingbird displays that make no damn sense. Who’s inaccurate now?
Here’s an example when I look for “Nature’s Ozempic” supplement Berberine. It’s either safe, gonna kill me, or I’ll crap my pants for days on end.
Types of Writers
I see three main categories of writers who can cater to clients.
- Journalists: They fact-check everything and have a flair for story-telling. They can adapt between serious and creative as much as they’ve had to adapt to print vs. video storytelling. They get it right and will not hesitate to call a source to get the right information for you, even if it’s something as simple as “Are you going out of business because Google says you are open, but your website is gone.” They will point out inaccuracies in the story and be miffed when you mangle a fact.
EXAMPLE: (A distortion to protect the client)
I was tasked with writing an article about the best restaurants to work at. In it, I wrote about the cost-savings of free meals or discounts. The editor changed it to “Your friends can give you free food when they work there.” Thank goodness my name wasn’t on it.
- Content Writers: They lack the facts that require deep dives but can churn out SEO-rich content and bow to your ever-evolving revision requests that you could have made clearer in the brief. Originality? Sure. But it’s YOUR parameters of originality. They are more skilled toward your needs than the best versions of their own writing style.
- Content Churners: They always use AI but have become smart enough to get around AI detectors. They turn content fast but could not care less how accurate it is. They generally work for clients who don’t care about facts either as long as the content meets SEO requirements. They want to rank, not rule.
On any given day, a person tasked with writing could be forced into all three categories.
Authentic Means BS Detector Also
Here’s what AI can’t do for you now or in any reasonable “near future.” It lacks any real-time data. Some of them will even play the “As an AI model, I can’t do anything since 2020 blah blah blah.”
I live by the motto, “Good enough is never good enough.”
Let’s take an example of the latest FDA drug shortage. I know the FDA lists all the drugs and makers involved in shortages. (I also know a bunch of manufacturers are lying about the shortages, but that’s for another story.)
A person without journalist prowess would go to Google Page 1 search for “FDA Drug Shortage,” and find this very legitimate CNN article about the shortage and likely write it based on that. However, it’s dated March 22 of 2023. A tsunami of information has come out since then. That includes a stern letter (FINALLY) from the FDA calling manufacturers on the carpet for their lack of even producing the allowable amount of amphetamines in 2022.
In this scenario, I think it’s somewhat valid to use AI to explain what amphetamines are (as long as it’s correct, which a good journalist would know) and then write original content based on the latest developments.
Again, do you want me to spend time detailing the different ADHD drugs at a time when record amounts of prescriptions are being issued? Or do you want me to get the latest and best information tailored to your SEO needs? And if you want BOTH – are you going to pay for that time?
FULL DISCLOSURE: I still feel somewhat threatened by AI, which is why I want to keep my enemy close. However, the closer I get, the more I see that this entity is misunderstood. I want to understand it. I want to help you understand it. Mikey, you just might like it.
Know Why You Don’t Like AI
If you have a hard and fast “NO AI” rule, do you know why? Are you worried about inaccuracy? Do you think you are wasting money on something you could do yourself? Do you blame the masses for a few bad eggs solely relying on AI and adding no human interaction to it?
If you refuse to allow superlatives into content, you aren’t going to change a writer’s “original voice” by telling them not to use them. You are only going to waste more of their time mine hunting for errant superlatives. But if that writer can produce original content, run it through AI and say, “Remove all superlatives,” it’s an easy way to get the content you want and put the writer back on track to your next piece of content.
If it’s just the inaccuracy of AI, then hire a journalist. Enough of us are burned out of the business, waiting for the calming weather allowed in freelance writing.
If you just want your (literal) two cents per word worth, then don’t come with a list of 10 commandments that reduce your writer to below-poverty-level hourly rates.
You Can’t Love or Hate AI. You Can Only Accept It.
I have one service I write for that will use AI to put me in front of potential clients but bans AI from being used in writing. I cannot originally present myself to a potential client. I can only be churned out through an AI generator, only to be told I can’t use an AI generator where it would make sense.
The point I’m trying to make is that you need to find the right writer before you start laying down laws if you want the best content. That only comes with “original” and “authentic” interactions with them.
What motivates them? What drives them? What are their ethics and morals? How fast can they work? Can they reasonably accommodate your budget? Will you pay more when they overachieve for you? Will you build a longer-lasting relationship than finding the lowest bidder on your pitch?
Have you ever asked a writer what they think about AI tools? I think that answer would tell you everything you need to know about the person crafting your website, newsletter, or social media sites.
You can get more engaged in the AI process or hang out with Tom on MySpace. It’s up to you.
If you want a writer with expert journalism skills, a flair for writing, and an educated understanding of how AI can work in tandem with originality, I’m available for hire, training, or just a 15-minute chat.