NABJ-Baylor Attendees Benefit from “Controlling the Narrative: The Intersection of AI, PR Measurement & Storytelling Media Institute”

February 26, 2024
NABJ-Baylor PR and AI Conference

NABJ-Baylor attendees gained valuable insights from their participation in the 2024 "Controlling the Narrative: The Intersection of AI, PR Measurement & Storytelling Media Institute," presented by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Media-Related Task Force. 

The panel discussion on the "Impact of AI on Media, Journalists, and Audiences" shed light on the contemporary challenges faced by media professionals and educators. 

“It is important to keep up with technology trends,” said Mia Moody-Ramirez, Ph.D., NABJ-Baylor co-adviser. “I was thankful to be able to attend the event held at Southern Methodist University (SMU) with students and our alumni adviser.” 

The workshop focused on the rapid evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and its recent manifestation in generative AI. 

Neil Foote, CEO of Foote Communications, reflected on historical fears of technological advancements and stressed the importance of fostering trust in the digital era. People are always nervous about modern technology, but they adjust. The sense of trust in innovative technology has been bubbling up always. People were nervous about the internet, and the rate of adoption for it was five years.  

Moderator Leona Allen Ford, Deputy Publisher of The Dallas Morning News, recounted an incident involving Sports Illustrated's publication of stories authored by fictional reporters, prompting intensified scrutiny on the authenticity of AI-generated content. 

“There were odd facts in the stories that people who know about sports could easily identify as unreal,” Ford said. “This promoted more scrutiny on the authenticity and reliability of AI-generated content.” 

Dr. Dorothy Bland, a professor at the University of North Texas, highlighted synthetic stories, which are popular in China. These articles, video and audio recordings and videos are generated by AI without direct human input. They are used for entertainment, advertising, marketing and propaganda. 

Issues highlighted during the workshop included AI's tendency to alter physical attributes such as skin tone and facial features, particularly in lightening skin tones of Black people. There is also a prevalence of misidentification of Black individuals by facial recognition technology. AI’s weaknesses reflect societal biases and past injustices, prompting reflections on potential checks and balances.

Panelist Christopher Wynn, Assistant Managing Editor of Specialty Reporting and Innovation at The Dallas Morning News, said the publication has a task force in place to discuss how to navigate AI. He noted the issues they talk about one week are often obsolete the next week.  

Wynn outlined five steps to navigate the evolving AI landscape:  

  • Newspapers must issue right-now guidance to staff to alleviate fears.  

  • Add coding in HTML that blocks AI crawlers. 

  • Begin some controlled internal experiments. Think about what AI can do to help us. It cannot draft stories for the newspaper, but it can do some things that are not for public consumption. 

  • Explore potential strategies partnerships using AI. Are there potential partnership opportunities where you can receive special funding? 

  • Create public policy to support AI research and innovation initiatives.  

AI and Storytelling

In a panel titled, "Elevate Your Storytelling: Social Impact," participants explored the role of human emotion in storytelling, noting its efficiency in engaging audiences beyond mere factual data. 

Emotion is one advantage that humans will always have over technology, panelists noted. They further emphasized the ability of emotion to move audiences, surpassing facts and numbers.  

The panel discussion extended to historical inaccuracies in AI-generated data and the importance of authenticity in storytelling and discerning genuine narratives from fabricated ones. The discussion turned to the impact of narratives in other spheres, including court proceedings, where compelling storytelling often influences outcomes for DAs. 

Dione Sims, the granddaughter of Opal Lee, the grandmother of Juneteenth, revealed widespread historical inaccuracies in online information, emphasizing the critical importance of authenticity in storytelling. 

“I would like to write my own book to set the record straight,” Sims said. 

Lee later appeared in person during lunch. Attendees were able to meet and take photos with her.  

Attendee Feedback

Baylor attendees enefitted greatly from the opportunity to learn from PR veterans.  

NABJ-Baylor President Cole Gee, a junior, learned that there is more to journalism than just the newsroom and the importance of having an older experienced mentor. 

Gierra Cottingham, Baylor-NABJ Vice President, said the seminar reminder her that Black excellence is ongoing. 

 "As Black journalists, we must appreciate our passion to story-tell," she said. "We must stay up to date with artificial intelligence and take pride in an authentic world view that reflects history being changed.” 

Rafael Roker, Baylor's NABJ-social media chair/chaplain and an aspiring entrepreneur, notes there are benefits to being patient.  

“If you have a 9-5, keep it, and then use your 5-9 until it becomes enough to cover your 9-5,” Roker said. “This is a great quote from Terry Allen.” 

KJ Burkley, Baylor-NABJ alumni adviser, said he was reminded that a professional's network is their net-worth. 

“As a PR professional, knowing your assets, your worth, and network may easily decide whether you sink or swim when securing contracts," Burkley said. "Always stand firm on asserting your identity and make sure you truly believe in the work of your clients." 

One final takeaway from the event is that professionals and educators must be prepared to teach future generations how to detect authentic content. 

“Controlling the Narrative” co-chair Terry Allen emphasized the necessity of readiness. 

“The digital transformation we’ve undergone for several decades has profoundly affected work processes,” Allen said. “We must be prepared.”