“The use of AI in illustration is unethical,” renowned comic artist and reader of El Confidencial, Mikel Janín, argued when stopping his subscription to our newspaper. It was not an isolated criticism, but a reflection of the discontent that many users expressed in reaction to an experiment we conducted last April, where we used an AI tool to design an illustration and tweeted about it.
I believe there are many lessons to be learned from this episode. A newspaper such as El Confidencial gains and loses readers every day, but losing Mikel hit me particularly hard, and I have written a letter, urging him to come back:
Please accept my apologies. The experiment was limited. The image was clearly labelled as AI-generated, and it was explained in a Twitter thread. However, communication with the audience is crucial. Undoubtedly, the Tweet was not enough to convey our message. As a subscriber, you deserve an explanation.
I’ve seen major media outlets decline by failing to accept — or outright refusing — technological changes. We cannot expect a cutting-edge newspaper to refrain from experimenting with such innovations. The arrival of AI in the media is unstoppable, and those who do not adapt will perish.
The illustration experiment was not carried out as a substitute for the work of a professional. It was conducted by our team of designers, who have been experimenting with the most groundbreaking technology in decades. The formats, infographics and special features they created (many of them award-winning) testify to the value we place on graphic art.
The best way to approach the discussion about AI is not to deny it exists. Subscribers such as yourself can make their voices heard in our newsroom and scrutinise the ethical use of any technology. I invite you and everyone else who feels disappointed not to abandon us over a misstep. Please come back and engage in the debate with us. After all, we are also afraid of the implications of AI.