AI journalism – are you ready?

New research reveals how 105 newsrooms across 46 countries are using AI journalism in news gathering, production and distribution. It also shows that AI adoption is sporadic and erratic as 75% of respondents use AI, but only a third have or are in the process of creating an AI strategy.

Generating Change is a research report from JournalismAI, a Google News Initiative project by POLIS at LSE (the London School of Economics and Political Science). It explores the adoption, strategies, and implications of artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI (genAI) in newsrooms globally. As well as looking at how AI is being used for newsgathering, production, and distribution, it also considers the ethical, strategic, and future implications of AI technologies.

The report takes a sensible grounded view of generative AI and avoids getting too sucked into the hype such as AI’s “rapacious appetite for other people’s data to train its algorithms” or the “unreliaility” of tools.

It identifies that AI is primarily being used to improve efficiency and productivity to free journalists up for more creative or challenging work.

An alarming aspect of the research is the number of journalists and news organisations that are using AI already but don’t have an AI strategy in place, or aren’t even in the process of creating one. It’s clear that AI is rapidly reshaping roles within newsrooms, but without a strategy there is a lack of training and upskilling and what is happening is reactive rather than planned and proactive.

Only a third of respondents say they are fully ready to handle the challenges of adopting AI. They see some of the challenges as being explaining AI, setting guidelines and biased algorithms.

More than 60% are concerned about the ethical implications of AI, while 80% expect AI’s importance to grow. They identify the main uses as fact-checking, content generation, personalisation and sentiment analysis.

The survey also reveals concerns about resources with respondents worried that small, less-resourced newsrooms won’t be able to adapt fast enough and keep up. The two key barriers identified are technical difficulties and ethical challenges.

What does AI journalism mean for PR and comms?

These figures aren’t drastically different to those I’ve seen from the public relations and communications sector, both from our own research and others. Although I don’t think a third of PR agencies or in-house teams have anything even close to an ‘AI strategy’.

This potentially means that the targets of the PR industry’s media relations efforts are adopting AI faster and using it better. The challenges for PR agencies and communications teams are similar to those faced by newsrooms and journalists:

  1. The need to understand how to leverage AI at a strategic level, rather than just tactical tasks.
  2. Navigating ethical challenges by putting robust policies in place and processes for ensuring they are followed and can be adapted as the team learns more and the AI landscape develops. This includes issues areound transparency and bias.
  3. Ensuring that AI adoption and knowledge is shared throughout the team and doesn’t create silos or hierachies of those benefiting from AI and those who won’t or can’t use AI.
  4. Continuous learning and development so that the use of AI is constantly improving and adapting as AI technologies develop and improve.
  5. An urgent need to put a strategy and roadmap in place to ensure PR and communications teams don’t miss out on the opportunities of AI or fall foul of the risks.

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