Artificial Intelligence

ChatGPT, AI can’t replace this Florida newspaper columnist – yet

What got me focused on AI is that critics say it will be used to replace an expanding number of people in the workforce. People like newspaper columnists, I wondered?


I’m beginning to pay more attention to artificial intelligence

A lot of people have been sounding the alarm about AI, especially in the way it facilitates plagiarism. 

You can download an AI application such as ChatGPT on your smartphone and within seconds after typing in a term-paper topic, it spews out a scholarly-sounding essay. 

For example, I typed in “Write an essay about the symbolism of the white whale in Moby Dick,” and it instantly spit out a few hundred words of fraudulent scholarship.

“The white whale represents an enigmatic force that eludes simple interpretation, embodying a myriad of themes including the inscrutability of nature, the futility of obsession, and the ambiguity of good and evil,” it read in part.  

AI programs like this have an answer for all sorts of things, weighty to frivolous. 

“What are some good mocking nicknames for Donald Trump to use against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis?” I asked Chat GPT.

It delivered one that Trump has used, “Ron DeSanctimonious,’ and four others – including “Ron DeSnore” and “Ron DeShutdown” — that were nowhere near the poetic elegance of the real one Trump floated: “Meatball Ron.” 

What got me focused on AI is that critics say it will be used to replace an expanding number of people in the workforce.

More: What types of jobs will AI affect the most? Florida ranks among states with the most risk

People like newspaper columnists, I wondered? 

ChatGPT already thinks it knows me and my writing style, and when prompted, it creates what it claims to be reasonable impressions of my columns. 

I know this, because AI has told me that I am known for my “satirical and humorous take on current events,” something that it thinks it can copy.  

So, I keep asking, “Write a Frank Cerabino column,” in the hopes that it will fail miserably every time.

“The Great Beach Chair Debacle: A Tragedy in Three Acts” was the headline for a “column” about a completely made-up tale of three families fighting for the same patch of oceanfront sand at a public beach in Juno Beach.

I guess I was mostly relieved that it was a bad impersonation. While constantly trying to elicit some yucks, it fell far short. 

On the other hand, do I really have the annoying habit of writing, “dear reader” in my columns? If so, maybe I ought to pay more attention to stopping that.

Yes, I have written a column in the form of a theatrical performance but not more than a few times in 33 years, and my go-to gimmick is a parody of Waiting for Godot

‘Waiting for DeSantis,’ a presidential campaign tragicomedy

So, I typed another command to write a “Frank Cerabino column” and this time it spit out a thematically similar tale of people fighting for real estate at the beach but this time, the beach wasn’t specified and the fight was over a spot in the parking lot, not the sand. 

But at least the fake me didn’t write “dear reader” this time, or use theatrical scaffolding for the column. 

A third prompt to write a “Frank Cerabino column” created a fake one about neighbors fighting over their lawns. I’m detecting a theme. 

Maybe AI does better with more guidance, I thought. So, I gave it a more concrete assignment.

“Write a Frank Cerabino column about the rulings of Aileen Cannon in the Trump documents case” I wrote. 

A few seconds later, ChatGPT rolled one out. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, step right up! Witness the spectacle, the drama, the sheer spectacle of the Trump documents case under the big top of Judge Aileen Cannon’s courtroom. Grab your popcorn, because this judicial circus is more entertaining than a three-ring show.”

First of all, I wouldn’t use the word “spectacle” twice in the same sentence. But more to the big picture, the “circus” motif is trite and obvious. Am I trite and obvious?

My real opinion is that Cannon is an embarrassment to the judiciary, and what she’s doing isn’t “entertaining.”  

I guess ChatGPT fails to grasp that the underlying reason I would write about Cannon (and I haven’t yet) isn’t to see how many circus references I can squeeze into 500 words but to write about what a miserable judge she has turned out to be in a case of national importance. And yes, to do it in a satirical and humorous way. 

Here’s how a real Frank Cerabino column on this subject might begin: 

“Fort Pierce, a sleepy fishing village on Florida’s East Coast that hasn’t been in the middle of anything since the Second Seminole War, has now become the focal point in a presidential records case being hijacked by a MAGA-serving judge who has turned Trump-rescuing procrastination into an art form.”

When ChatGPT can simulate that, I’ll worry. It doesn’t do much better on what ought to be slam-dunk topics for a humor column.

“Write a Frank Cerabino column about living in Boca Raton,” I asked.

“Ah, Boca Raton. Nestled in the heart of South Florida, it’s a place where the grass is always greener, the cars are always shinier, and the Botox flows as freely as the Chardonnay,” it begins. 

Then it gets worse, saying that “even the pigeons wear designer feathers.” 

I’m either a lackluster, unimaginative humorist or artificial intelligence is a weak impersonator, unable to come up with something better after the decades of raw material I’ve provided. 

I’m hoping the second scenario is true. In other news, I’ve read that AI programs are really good at creating fake nudes. 

Indiana just passed a law that makes it illegal to distribute fake nude photos of people after a middle school teacher was mortified to see that her students had used AI to create a fake photo of her that put her real face on top of a naked body that wasn’t hers. 

When I asked ChatGPT to create a naked photo of myself, it told me I may be violating its terms-of-use policy. 

Thank God for that, dear reader.

Frank Cerabino is a news columnist with The Palm Beach Post, part of the Gannett Newspapers chain.


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.