Artificial intelligence won’t kill journalism or save it, but the sooner newsrooms buy in, the better – Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard

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The robots aren’t taking over journalism jobs, but newsroom should adapt artificial intelligence technologies and accept that the way news is produced and consumed is changing, according to a new report by Polis, the media think-tank at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

In its global survey on journalism and artificial intelligence, “New Powers, New Responsibilities,” researchers asked 71 news organizations from 32 countries if and how that currently use AI in their newsrooms and how they expect the technology to impact the news media industry. (Since what exactly constitutes AI can be fuzzy, the report defines it as “a collection of ideas, technologies, and techniques that relate to a computer system’s capacity to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence.”)

Right now, newsrooms mostly use AI in three areas: news gathering, production, and distribution. Of those surveyed, only 37 percent have an active AI strategy. The survey found that while newsrooms were interested in AI for efficiency and competitive purposes, they said they were mostly motivated by the desire to “help the public cope with a world of news overload and misinformation and to connect them in a convenient way to credible content that is relevant, useful and stimulating for their lives.”

“The hope is that journalists will be algorithmically turbo-charged, capable of using their human skills in new and more effective ways,” Polis founding director Charlie Beckett said in the report. “AI could also transform newsrooms from linear production lines into networked information and engagement hubs that give journalists the structures to take the news industry forward into the data-driven age.”

While most respondents said that AI would be beneficial as long as newsrooms stuck to their ethical and editorial policies, they noted that budget cuts as a result of implementing AI could lower the quality of news produced. They were also concerned about algorithmic bias and the role that technology companies will play in journalism going forward.

“AI technologies will not save journalism or kill it off,” Beckett writes. “Journalism faces a host of other challenges such as public apathy and antipathy, competition for attention, and political persecution…Perhaps the biggest message we should take from this report is that we are at another critical historical moment. 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 organisations must get across this technology.”

Here’s a video summary of the report:

And here is a brief response to the report from Johannes Klingebiel of Süddeutsche Zeitung.

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