Artificial Intelligence has been hotly debated in journalism, with some questioning the dangers of AI while others have presented how it can benefit journalists and the industry by helping journalists uncover new stories and streamline workflows.

JournalismAI, a journalism think-tank of the London School of Economics, has released a report, Generating Change, that surveyed news organisations to find out how they were engaging with AI and its implications for the future of journalism.

The report surveyed more than 120 editors, journalists, technologies and media makers from 105 small and large newsrooms across 46 countries between April and July 2023. According to the report, around 85% of survey respondents have at the very least experimented with generative AI (genAI) to help with tasks such as writing code, image generation and authoring summaries.

How is AI being used in newsrooms?

The report found that more than 75% of respondents use AI in at least one of three main areas; newsgathering, news production and news distribution. “AI applications can assist newsrooms in gathering material from various sources and helping the editorial team gauge an audience’s interests as part of a data-driven production cycle,” says the report.

BloombergGPT, the Reuters News Tracker and the Washington Post’s Heliograf are all examples of news organisations that are using AI to help summarise documents and reports and analyse large amounts of data to identify trends and patterns. More than half of the respondents said one of the driving factors for adopting AI is it increases efficiency and enhances productivity. “Around a third of respondents said they hoped AI technologies would help them reach a wider audience, personalise reader experiences, and enhance audience engagement,” says the report.

Transcription and audio-editing tools, web scraping, social media monitoring, image generation, recommendation systems, and other distribution tools were mentioned as successful AI applications. Though respondents highlighted the successful use of AI, these applications need to be continuously tested and improved, which highlights the importance of human intervention.

Despite the benefits of AI, more than 60% of respondents are concerned about the ethical implications of AI integration for editorial quality and other aspects of journalism. Journalists are trying to figure out how to integrate AI technologies into their work and uphold journalistic values like accuracy, fairness, and transparency.

Financial constraints and technical challenges were identified as primary challenges to AI adoption. However, challenges in the newsroom were more pronounced in the Global South, with respondents highlighting language, infrastructural, and political challenges. According to the report, “Currently the social and economic benefits of AI are geographically concentrated primarily in the Global North.”

A respondent said that one of the challenges with implementing AI is that “technology is not fully embraced in most media houses in Malawi. Part of the reason [being] their poor internet infrastructure and internet penetration [which is] quite low”. In India, the challenge with adopting AI is language, as the country has over 200 tribes, with their distinct languages and culture. Other respondents highlighted challenges with accents, as AI tools struggle to understand non-Western English accents. “Coral has been very successful as a comment moderation tool, but we still find the ‘grey’ area comments require a human element, especially as it is an American tool not built for the South African audience in mind,” says a respondent in the report.

The report concludes that “AI offers ways for journalism to reinvent itself in imaginative ways. GenAI has also, however, created the threat of ‘disintermediation’ for the news media”.

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