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Using generative AI in the newsroom.

Opportunities and threats with AI in the newsroom

73% of news organisations believe generative artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT and Google Bard offer new opportunities for journalism, a new survey shows. “Our survey shows that the new generative AI tools are a potential threat to the integrity of information and the news media. But they also offer an incredible opportunity to make journalism more efficient, effective and trustworthy”, says  co-author and Director of JournalismAI at LSE Professor Charlie Beckett. 

The new report, Generating Change: A global survey of what news organisations are doing with AI, from the JournalismAI initiative at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) surveyed over 100 news organisations from 46 countries.

Around 85% of respondents – including journalists, technologists and managers at news organisations – have at the very least experimented with genAI to help with tasks such as writing code, image generation and authoring summaries.

“Some respondents noted that AI can help free up capacity for more creative work by helping with time-intensive tasks such as interview transcription and fact-checking. A France based  AI strategy analyst who was part of the survey, noted: “GenAI can change the way we interact with information, allowing us to grasp massive amounts of data, and level the playing field between high and low data skills.”

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Key findings:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to be unevenly distributed among small and large newsrooms and regionally among Global South and Global North countries. 
  • The social and economic benefits of AI are geographically concentrated in the Global North, which enjoy the infrastructure and resources, while many countries in the Global South grapple with the social, cultural, and economic repercussions of postindependence colonialism. 
  • More than 75% of respondents use AI in at least one of the areas across the news value chain of news gathering, production and distribution. 
  • Increasing efficiency and productivity to free up journalists for more creative work were the main drivers for AI integration for more than half the respondents. 
  • Around a 1/3 of the respondents said they had an institutional AI strategy or were currently developing one. 
  • Newsrooms have a wide range of approaches to AI strategy, depending on their size, mission, and access to resources. Some early adopters are currently focusing on achieving AI interoperability with existing systems, others have adopted a case-bycase approach, and some media development organisations are working towards building AI capacity in regions with low AI literacy. 
  • Around a 1/3 of respondents believe their organisations are ready to deal with the challenges of AI adoption in journalism, while almost half said they were only partially ready or not ready yet. 
  • Many respondents said AI integration is changing existing roles within the newsroom through training and upskilling. Along the same lines, AI is changing the nature of a journalist’s role and sought after skills. 
  • As we saw in our 2019 report, financial constraints and technical difficulties remain the most pressing challenges for integrating AI technologies in the newsroom. 
  • Ethical concerns are still significant for our respondents; many advocate for explainable AI and setting ethical guidelines to mitigate algorithmic bias. 
  • Setting de-biasing techniques emerged as a highly challenging area for most respondents.
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The survey says respondents pointed out the affordances of genAI technologies, such as their accessibility, low requirements for technical skills, and what was described as their ability to understand “context”, which make them stand out from other AI technologies that generally require deep specialist expertise in areas like programming.

“Despite these opportunities, respondents recognised the need for any AI generated content to be checked by a human to mitigate potential harms like bias and inaccuracy. A debunking editor at a Spanish fact checking platform noted: “No matter how advanced AI becomes, human criteria will always be essential in the whole fact-checking process.”

More than 60% noted concern about the ethical implications of AI on journalistic values including accuracy, fairness and transparency and other aspects of journalism, the survey shows.

“While newsrooms globally contend with challenges related to AI integration, the challenges are more pronounced for newsrooms in the Global South. Respondents highlighted language, infrastructural, and political challenges.” 

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“They noted how the social and economic benefits of AI tend to be geographically concentrated in the Global North, where there is better infrastructure and easier access to resources. Meanwhile, many countries in the Global South grapple with the social, cultural, and economic repercussions of post-independence colonialism.” 

With 80% of respondents expecting an increased use of AI in their newsrooms, the report’s authors believe this is a crucial opportunity “for ‘good’ journalists to do more ‘human’ work with the support of AI.”

“We’ve known that it’s a double edged sword, like almost everything, but what came through more clearly in our report this year was the global AI disparity. Currently, the economic and social benefits of AI are concentrated in the Global North and its harms disproportionately affect the Global South (e.g. algorithmic bias), exacerbating global inequality”, says co-author and lead researcher Mira Yaseen.

“ If we are serious about benefiting from AI in an equitable manner, it is imperative that we adopt a power-conscious framing of global AI development and adoption, which is often absent in discussions about AI.” 

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