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Can using AI hurt trust in media?

An efficient tool or an unreliable technology that can further hurt trust in media? Various forms of artificial intelligence are already used as tools in media but a new survey stresses that news consumers are not so comfortable with media using AI, especially when it comes to ‘hard’ news stories such as politics or war. Could experimenting with AI be negative for public trust in news, which Reuters Institute data show, has declined in many countries?

Regardless of what happens, it is vital to pay attention to generative AI and to start the process right now of thinking through how it might change working life and business, argues professor Charlie Beckett in a blog post.The potential for publishers is quite extraordinary”, he writes.

Beckett is professor in the Department of Media and Communications at the LSE and director of the LSE journalism think-tank Polis.

He writes that generative AI offers opportunities. “But at the moment, I would never use current generative AI tools to publish directly without human oversight. It is just too risky.”. 

“Instead, it is best to think about generative AI as a set of tools that might supplement your workflow and augment your newsgathering, content creation and distribution.”

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Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report in its 2024 edition stresses that just as there is no single AI technology or application, there is no single view from audiences on whether the use of AI by news organisations is acceptable or not. 

“Our findings show audiences are most open to AI uses that are behind the scenes and areas where AI can help improve their experiences using news, providing more personalised and accessible information”, the Reuters Institute report says. 

“They are less comfortable when it comes to public-facing content, sensitive or important topics, and synthetic videos or images that may come across as real, and where the consequences of error are viewed as most consequential.” 

“Overall, there is consensus that a human should always be in the loop and complete automation should be off limits. 

“These are still early days, and public attitudes towards the application of AI in journalism will continue to evolve, especially as the balance between abstract considerations and more practical experience shifts if larger parts of the public use AI tools more in their personal and professional life.” 

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“At present, many are clear that there are areas they think should remain in the hands of humans. These kinds of work – which require human emotion, judgement, and connection – are where publishers will want to keep humans front and centre”, the Reuters Institute report says.

Beckett offers advice on how to use generative AI in media, saying it is not so different to approaching more basic forms of AI. 

  • Everyone in your organisation needs some generative AI knowledge. Make sure everyone in your organisation has some basic knowledge about Generative AI. Your people need to know about AI and generative AI, because they will definitely be using it, in the future they will use it more, and the world they report on will be using it too.
  • Assign responsibility for generative AI. Identify people in your organisation who can take responsibility for getting across this technology and it’s fast-moving development. You need to understand how it might relate to your workflows, mission and business model. How should you change your hiring policy and skills-sets? It is vital that they work across the organisation, gathering insights and views from ALL staff. Address concerns and spread best practice.
  • Explore existing use cases. This about what problems it might solve or ameliorate. What processes might it enhance? What things need to be kept ‘human’? Play around the tools to build your confidence and AI literacy. Create a culture of confidence, not fear, around generative AI.
  • Iterate and Review. Start small. Try and then try again. Do it but then review. Is it saving time? Is it accurate? Does it enhance the quality of the content and the user experience? Could you develop new products or systems?
  • Guidelines. Mitigate ethical and editorial risks. Think through the potential dangers to your reputation. Put in place guidelines. Guidelines can give confidence to your staff but also send a positive message to advertisers/funders and the audience.
Read Also:  Just 5% have used GenAI to get latest news

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