ChatGPT did not write this column

Barry Friedman

Founder & Editor-at-Large

There’s been a lot of chatter in journalism circles lately about how news organizations should and shouldn’t use ChatGPT, the online artificial intelligence “chatbot” that has gotten a lot of attention since being released to the public last November.

If you’re not familiar with ChatGPT, I asked it to describe itself in layman’s terms. The response:

“I am ChatGPT, a computer program designed to generate human-like responses to text-based inputs, using a vast amount of knowledge and language understanding that I have learned through machine learning algorithms.”

What happens when a user goes to the ChatGPT website and types a question? According to ChatGPT, “The input text is analyzed and processed by the language model to generate a response that attempts to answer the user’s question based on its vast database of knowledge and understanding of natural language.” Basically, it queries the whole internet for potential answers.

Before going further, I want to let readers know that with the exception of the previous two paragraphs, LkldNow has never published any content generated by ChatGPT or any other artificial intelligence software, and we have no plans to do so.

However, we have found several ways that ChatGPT has been useful in back-end work. In pretty much every case, ChatGPT has saved us time in basic research. But also in every case, we’ve added our own human knowledge and discernment to fine-tune the responses to make them truly useful.

We’ve used ChatGPT to generate interview questions. The few times I’ve used it, I’ve rearranged the order, reworded, deleted and added questions based on local knowledge.

ChatGPT has suggested approaches to some company communications. And we have used it to help as we create a tool to track progress on articles in the pipeline from our staff and correspondents.

I’ve used ChatGPT a few times to find answers to very specific questions that a Google search would not have easily answered. In every case, it’s important to verify the answer with trusted sources.

ChatGPT even helped me decide the title I would use after I was no longer LkldNow’s editor. My first thought was to go with Editor Emeritus. But that implies I’m no longer actively involved with the organization. While our new editor, Cindy Glover, is now responsible for day-to-day news operations, I am still very much involved. I described the situation to ChatGPT and it made a suggestion: Editor at Large. Bingo.

A major criticism of ChatGPT is that it does not include references or links to the information it uses to generate its answers. That is not the case with a different AI chat I use sometimes: The Neeva search engine responds to searches with both an AI summary that includes its sources and traditional search results.

It’s important to know what else ChatGPT does not do well. One of those things is answering questions about local topics. The answers it gave to my questions about local newsmakers were filled with errors. It’s good to know that ChatGPT or programs like it will not be taking over local journalism any time soon.

Dead Baby Found in South Lakeland Dumpster, Police Searching for Parents

The newborn baby boy, with placenta and umbilical cord still attached, was stuffed in a bag.

Lakeland Police Officer and 13-Year-Old Boy Shoot Each Other

Both have non-life-threatening injuries after exchange of gunfire near Carrington Place apartments.

Community shows up for LlkdNow Forum on Race & Equity

Panelists discuss progress made since Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and ways to continue eliminating obstacles to prosperity and security.

Lakeland’s Mayfaire-by-the-Lake is celebrating its 51st year

Everything you need to know if you’re going to the Mayfaire-by-the-Lake arts festival at Lake Morton this weekend.

Lakeland Woman’s Hair Care Line Is Receiving National Attention

Products that Angela Fields created in her Lakeland kitchen are being sold nationally and featured in major magazines.

North & South Lakeland Road Closures to Delay Traffic Starting Monday

Old Medulla Road in South Lakeland will close for two months, Raulerson Road in North Lakeland will close for 4 days.

Mi Escuela Montessori celebrates Cinco de Mayo

The bilingual charter school, which just added 6th grade, nurtures curiosity and independence to prepare students for real life.

Polk teachers must verify that all classroom books are district-approved

Teachers have until the beginning of the next school year to complete a review of books in their classrooms following changes by the Florida Legislature.


Hydrogen plant coming to Mulberry will produce clean rocket fuel | Central Florida Development Council

Health department warns of toxic blue-green algae in Peace River and five local lakes including Lake Hollingsworth | The Ledger

Can panthers, deer and bears coexist with I-4? Wildlife crossings in NE Lakeland aim to improve their odds | WUSF News

Fitness Scavenger Hunt | Saturday |8 to 10 a.m. | Bonnet Springs Park
Gather a team of three to five people (with at least one adult) and join the Hundred Acre Wood Fitness Scavenger hunt, hosted by Bonnet Springs Park in partnership with YF Active. The free event will involve a series of fitness challenges to gather clues scattered throughout the park. At least one participant will need to download the free NFC-Reader app to receive clues. Activities will include running, jumping, walking and stretching but are intended to be inclusive for people of different ages and abilities.

Mayfaire by-the-Lake | Saturday and Sunday | 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. | Lake Morton
Lakeland’s Mayfaire-By-The-Lake is celebrating its 51st year this weekend. The premiere outdoor, juried, fine arts festival is free to attend and organized by the Polk Museum of Art. It will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, the same weekend as Mother’s Day, along the shores of Lake Morton in downtown Lakeland.

Second Sunday Artisan Market | Sunday | 12 to 5 p.m. | Lakeside Village
Celebrate Mother’s Day by supporting local artists and crafters selling everything from jewelry to home decor at this monthly outdoor event. More than 70 vendors will be offering their wares. Music will be provided by DJ Cubis.

We’re enchanted by this vintage-inspired picture of the iconic 70-foot-tall arch at the Southgate Shopping Center, taken by Emily Mort of the popular LKLDlense Instagram account. | Photo courtesy of Emily Mort

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Cindy Glover moved to Lakeland in 2021 after spending two decades in South Florida. Her career has included journalism, education, digital marketing and public relations. She worked for the Albuquerque Journal and South Florida Sun-Sentinel and spent a year as a community engagement coordinator for the City of Lakeland before joining LkldNow.