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How AI can benefit resource-challenged newsrooms: WAN-IFRA report

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From creating news stories automatically to optimizing content delivery, an increasing number of newsrooms are making use of AI to automate and augment their reporting and other newsroom processes.

This is making workflows more efficient, speeding up time-consuming tasks, and increasing the breadth of their coverage.

A new report, “AI in the Newsroom“, has been published by the World Editors Forum, the network for editors within WAN-IFRA, the World Association of News Publishers. Through case studies and interviews with individuals at the forefront of AI, the report offers an in-depth look at how artificial intelligence is impacting and transforming the news creation process.

Through investigations such as the Panama Papers, we have seen the power of AI and what it can do for journalism. Projects on that scale require vast resources and collective effort. Many small newsrooms looking for tech solutions to solve resource issues or tailor their products don’t know where to start. We hope the examples in this report give them inspiration.

Cherilyn Ireton, Executive Director, World Editors Forum

The case studies—covering MittMedia, Sweden; The Business Times, Singapore; RADAR, UK; Aftenposten, Norway; Dagens Næringsliv, Norway; and Tamedia, Switzerland—go beyond inspiring examples from well-funded, pioneering newsrooms. 

Included are ideas from resource-challenged operations who are experimenting with machine learning to eliminate repetitive tasks and augment decision making, thereby freeing up journalists. It also offers expert advice for those wanting to start their AI journey.

This report, the second of the World Editors Forum’s 2019 Trends in Newsrooms, captures the experiences of both AI pioneers and experimenters. From the USA to Sweden and Singapore, WAN-IFRA has selected case studies that show how AI can benefit resource-challenged newsrooms, by conducting repetitive tasks, augmenting decision making and helping to deliver a more tailored and engaging offering to news audiences.

5 key takeaways from “AI in the Newsroom”

1. AI is already having a big impact

While the adoption of AI is still largely confined to bigger newsrooms with more resources at their disposal, it’s already impacting and transforming all steps of the value creation chain: newsgathering, production, and distribution.

2. AI’s importance in newsrooms is growing

A large majority of respondents to a recent WAN-IFRA survey say that in the future AI and automation will play an important or very important role when it comes to producing and publishing multimedia content.

3. Journalists are unlikely to be replaced by AI

Although this idea has caused some worry, journalists are unlikely to be replaced by AI, and nobody seems to be working towards that end. Rather, it’s been pointed out that the adoption of AI may even create more work within a news organization.

4. AI is not infallible

AI may involve sophisticated algorithms, but the conclusions drawn by machines are not always correct. Journalists must always question outcomes, validate methodologies and ensure explainability. This is no easy task: algorithms are difficult to audit and, as such, to hold accountable.

5. AI may drive the next generation of misinformation

Deepfakes are images or audio files generated or altered with the help of AI to dupe an audience into thinking they are real. Now, in addition to traditional fact-checking processes, journalists must also be vigilant about the possibility that video or image evidence might have been falsified.

Perhaps the strongest argument for journalists to embrace AI is the benefit it can bring to investigations and verification. The speed at which AI applications can sort through and analyse data, at scale, was an unquantifiable asset for the collaborative teams probing the Panama and Paradise Papers. Amid the new reality of deepfake videos, the technology aiding verification of images and video, and other disinformation, is also invaluable.

Cherilyn Ireton, Executive Director, World Editors Forum

The technology is evolving rapidly, and so too experimentation and adoption. Yet fears linger around job losses, machine-instilled bias and a lack of control.

So how do newsrooms deal with these issues if they want to begin the AI journey? WAN-IFRA shares valuable input from individuals at the forefront of AI – and some ethical dimensions to consider when introducing AI.

The 28-page report is available to download at the following link:
AI in the Newsroom (Free for WAN-IFRA members; €150 for non-members)

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