Almost three quarters (73 per cent) of news organisations surveyed in a new global report published today (20 September) on AI and the media believe generative AI (genAI), such as ChatGPT or Google Bard, presents new opportunities for journalism.
The new report, Generating Change: A global survey of what news organisations are doing with AI, from the JournalismAI initiative at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) surveyed over 100 news organisations from 46 countries about their engagement with AI and associated technologies. The survey was conducted between April and July 2023.
Around 85 per cent of survey respondents - including journalists, technologists and managers at news organisations - have at the very least experimented with genAI to help with tasks such as writing code, image generation and authoring summaries.
Some respondents noted that AI can help free up capacity for more creative work by helping with time-intensive tasks such as interview transcription and fact-checking. A France based AI strategy analyst who was part of the survey, noted: “GenAI can change the way we interact with information, allowing us to grasp massive amounts of data, and level the playing field between high and low data skills.”
Respondents pointed out the affordances of genAI technologies, such as their accessibility, low requirements for technical skills, and what was described as their ability to understand “context”, which make them stand out from other AI technologies that generally require deep specialist expertise in areas like programming.
Despite these opportunities, respondents recognised the need for any AI generated content to be checked by a human to mitigate potential harms like bias and inaccuracy. A debunking editor at a Spanish fact checking platform noted: “No matter how advanced AI becomes, human criteria will always be essential in the whole fact-checking process.”
More than 60 per cent of respondents noted their concern about the ethical implications of AI on journalistic values including accuracy, fairness and transparency and other aspects of journalism.
While newsrooms globally contend with challenges related to AI integration, the challenges are more pronounced for newsrooms in the Global South. Respondents highlighted language, infrastructural, and political challenges. They noted how the social and economic benefits of AI tend to be geographically concentrated in the Global North, where there is better infrastructure and easier access to resources. Meanwhile, many countries in the Global South grapple with the social, cultural, and economic repercussions of post-independence colonialism.
A Philippines based respondent commented: “AI technologies developed have been predominantly available in English, but not in many Asian languages…We have to catch up doubly to create AI systems, and AI systems that work with our local languages.”
With 80 per cent of respondents expecting an increased use of AI in their newsrooms, the report’s authors believe this is a crucial opportunity “for ‘good’ journalists to do more ‘human’ work with the support of AI.”
Commenting on the findings, co-author and Director of JournalismAI Professor Charlie Beckett said: “Journalism around the world is going through another period of exciting and scary technological change. Our survey shows that the new generative AI tools are a potential threat to the integrity of information and the news media. But they also offer an incredible opportunity to make journalism more efficient, effective and trustworthy. This survey is a fascinating snapshot of the news media at a critical juncture in its history.”
Co-author and lead researcher Mira Yaseen added: “It was truly enriching to engage with more than 100 media organisations that vary in size, region, language, mission and business model, and listen to their experiences with and concerns about AI integration in journalism.
“We’ve known that it’s a double edged sword, like almost everything, but what came through more clearly in our report this year was the global AI disparity. Currently, the economic and social benefits of AI are concentrated in the Global North and its harms disproportionately affect the Global South (e.g. algorithmic bias), exacerbating global inequality. If we are serious about benefiting from AI in an equitable manner, it is imperative that we adopt a power-conscious framing of global AI development and adoption, which is often absent in discussions about AI. Our report attempts to do this in Chapter six by paying special attention to the challenges faced by the global majority.”