NEWSROOMS need to pay attention to AI because it 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 uses of AI tools in 71 news organizations from 32 countries. The global project was led by Professor Charlie Beckett, who heads POLIS. Funding was provided by the Google News Initiative.
AI is a fast-moving field where late adopters could face a hard time catching up, the study cautions. 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.’
Within the 117-page report:
- 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, (c) employing AI tools purely for financial gain, and (d) 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
Realizing the 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 at the time of the survey.
The report stresses the value of collaboration to make progress in a timely way, either with other news companies, universities, or industries in other sectors. It says that means organizations will need to get past typical ‘ultra-competitiveness’ and insularity.
‘We are at another critical historical moment,’ says Beckett in his concluding commentary, ‘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 provides detailed analysis in four sections:
- How AI is being used in journalism today
- AI strategy in journalism
- Ethics and editorial policy
- The future of AI and journalism
‘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.’
Professor Charlie Beckett, POLIS/LSE