A couple of weeks ago, I had the good fortune to attend the Media Party conference in Chicago. As with previous, early-stage “what is this technology?” conferences, I found the three days in Chicago a great way to connect with others who are also stumbling around and learning about Generative AI (genAI), Large Language Models (LLMs) and other AI-based technologies and techniques that are poised to forever change the way we work and communicate.

The biggest takeaway from the conference for me is that we are all still learning the practical applications of genAI and that no one is an expert. Most of the subject matter experts do not have experience in real world applications and those of use working at the intersection of media and technology are only now beginning to understand the complexities of building production-ready genAI systems (how do you QA unexpected results?)

There were no dumb questions – everyone had something to add to the conversation so, in that sense, the conversations were refreshingly equitable. I mentioned to more than a few people that the collaborative atmosphere at the conference (there were about 100-150 of us there) reminded me of the BloggerCon conferences from the early-2000s when blogging was getting started.

While there were the expected skeptics that were tolling the bell of caution that genAI was going to steamroll journalists out of existence,

Martha Williams, World News Media Network

there was also a faction of proponents that ranged from the embrace-or-become-extinct clan to the this-tech-will-give-me-superpowers crowd. The message that had the most resonance with me was from Jennifer Brandel who coined the term AE (Actual Experience) as the thing that journalists, particularly local news journalists, bring to the table that is often forgotten.

Jennifer Brandel’s AE bingo card

Indeed, what people are craving, particularly post-Covid, is human connection to a community. As information sources, local News organizations are well-positioned to be the focal point of their community in a way that an AI can never replicate. This past weekend, I took a long bike ride through the side streets in Brooklyn and Queens and saw pick-up basketball games complete with DJs and announcers, “uh oh, looks like the eighth graders are here to play!”) that showed off the best of community in action.

Maybe we are at the tail end of an old model of journalism that is heading for “hospice” The new genAI systems have trained and perfected how to more efficiently deliver commoditized “news” so the new type of journalism that is only now organizing itself will be one that is resistant to automation.

What follows are some unstructured notes and a collection of shared links that I found useful.

Word Embeddings & LLM – an update to concepts I first learned about in 2015 when I learned about the concept of Word2Vec

The Practical Guides for Lange Language Models – besides a continually updated table of LLMs, their license restrictions and what corpus of data was used in the training set, this guide also references this cool, evolutionary tree of LLMs.

Beginner’s prompt handbook: ChatGPT for local news publishers – an excellent place to get started. Also Using GPT on Library Collections

Mike Reilley from the Journalist’s Toolbox put together this toolkit on AI in the Newsroom

Media Party Chicago schedule – list of all speakers and sessions.

Thank you to everyone that put this event together. It’s particularly valuable to collaboratively learn about a new technology together. There is another Media Party event taking place in Buenos Aires in October, if you are in the area and interested in the intersection of AI and Journalism, it’s worth checking out.