If we value journalism as a social good, provided by humans for humans, then we have a window of perhaps 2-5 years, when news organizations must get across this technology.’

AI systems could have ‘a wide-ranging and profound influence on how journalism is made and consumed,’ says a comprehensive report by Polis, the journalism think-tank at the London School of Economics.

New powers, new responsibilities studied the uses of AI tools in 71 news organizations from 32 countries. The global project was led by Professor Charlie Beckett, who heads Polis. The Google News Initiative provided funding.

AI is a fast-moving field where late adopters could face a hard time catching up, the study finds. Scale is an issue, too.

‘…journalism is a relatively small business and AI is a big and expensive technology. News organizations will once more have to show imagination as well as determination if the new AI-powered augmented journalism is to thrive.’

The 117-page report covers:

  • Areas of potential
    (a) more time and focus for journalists to do better journalism, ‘with or without AI,’
    (b) better ways for news consumers to deal with misinformation and ‘news overload,’ and
    (c) greater connection by the audience with ‘content that is relevant, useful and stimulating for their lives.’
  • Current uses
    (a) news production (about two-thirds of respondents),
    (b) news distribution (just over 50%), and
    (c) news gathering (just under 50%)
  • Predominate reasons for using AI
    (a) journalist’s efficiency,
    (b) more relevant content, and
    (c) business efficiency
  • Challenges to adoption
    (a) costs,
    (b) knowledge/skills,
    (b) newsroom culture/fear of job displacement
  • Areas of concern
    (a) algorithmic bias,
    (b) deep-fakes/misinformation,
    (c) transparency,
    (d) employing AI tools purely for financial gain, and
    (e) tech companies as potential competitors or R&D gatekeepers
  • Areas for training and education
    (a) AI literacy,
    (b) AI skills,
    (c) more advanced AI skills,
    (d) management awareness,
    (e) ethics,
    (f) general AI insights

Pursuing these opportunities does not mean succumbing to the hype,’ writes Beckett, but ‘making informed judgments about the value of this technology and the way it can be deployed strategically.’ Only 37% of respondent companies had an AI strategy during the survey.

Collaboration can be a valuable way to make progress in a timely way, says the study. It could be with other news companies, universities, or industries in other sectors. Organizations need to get past typical ‘ultra-competitiveness’ and insularity.

Table from the report

‘We are at another critical historical moment,’ Beckett concludes. ‘It means accepting that, once again, news organizations will have to adjust to the fact that what journalism is and how it is consumed, is changing.’

The report is in four sections:

  1. How AI is being used in journalism today
  2. AI strategy in journalism
  3. Ethics and editorial policy
  4. The future of AI and journalism

Report author
Professor Charlie Beckett, POLIS/LSE


New Powers, New Responsibilities – A global survey of journalism and artificial intelligence
POLIS, in collaboration with Google News Initiative | November 18, 2019

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