Artificial intelligence (AI) has been making waves in various fields, and journalism is no exception. The potential impact of AI on journalism is still uncertain, but all the possibilities are ready to explore.
In a recent experiment, computers were used to conduct research, write articles, and edit them. The results were mixed, ranging from sensible stories about affordable housing to absurd claims like spilling milk being good for the environment. While technology has limitations, we can’t help but wonder about the future.
To responsibly harness the power of AI, Journalism AI, a project led by Professor Charlie Beckett at the London School of Economics, supports newsrooms in their AI endeavors.
Although many newsrooms contemplate leveraging this technology, they are also mindful of the potential pitfalls. AI must still be ready to replace human journalists, as evidenced by errors in AI-written stories discovered by CNET and a hoax column in The Irish Times.
Prof. Beckett rightly points out that a small mistake on a platform like Sky News can quickly become a social media laughingstock. Relying solely on AI to write stories and scripts may lead to declining quality. However, we can’t deny that AI is poised to significantly impact journalism, much like smartphones and Google searches did in the past.
According to Prof. Beckett, AI could replace journalistic tasks such as interviewing, scripting, and online story production. This would create hybrid jobs that require a combination of technological and editorial skills. The cost savings from employing AI could then be used to improve human journalism, enabling reporters to conduct more interviews and produce imaginative, empathetic, and opinionated stories.
The University of Kent’s Centre for Journalism focuses on preparing future reporters for AI-powered newsrooms. Professor Ian Reeves acknowledges that AI can be reasonably and ethically utilized within newsrooms but can produce nonsensical content without awareness. Students attempting to use AI for journalism assignments have sometimes ended up with hilariously inaccurate results. Therefore, it’s essential to demonstrate to aspiring journalists the potential risks of relying solely on AI for content production.
While AI excels at researching unfamiliar topics through platforms like Google, it must perform fundamental journalistic tasks such as engaging with real people, witnessing events, and holding power accountable. These skills will become increasingly important for journalists to thrive in the age of AI.
As Prof. Reeves emphasizes, trust and credibility are paramount. The best journalists are the ones who interact with people, understand how events affect their lives, and unveil truths that influential individuals seek to conceal. These are tasks that AI cannot accomplish.
However, Prof. Reeves believes AI could replace journalism jobs lacking essential skills, such as content farming roles that need more meaningful interaction. Publishers may benefit from AI platforms instead of hiring additional personnel in such cases.
Prof. Reeves also highlights the demand among young audiences for personalized news content tailored to their preferred format, tone, style, and platform. Success lies in being able to reformat and customize the content, translate it into different languages, and provide simplified or explainer versions.
In his visionary outlook, Prof. Reeves envisions a “Robocop journalist” equipped with tools to enhance efficiency and research capabilities. Additionally, he envisions a content creation system that transforms original pieces into various iterations. This way, audiences can seamlessly transition from watching a news segment during breakfast to listening to audio stories in the car and finally indulging in long reads when they return home from work. The ultimate goal is to give audiences the ability to shape their news experience, similar to how Spotify allows users to curate their music playlists.
While AI holds great potential for revolutionizing journalism, it is essential to strike a balance and utilize it responsibly, recognizing its limitations and the unique value human journalists bring.
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