Survey Reveals AI's Increasing Role and Ethical Concerns in Global Newsrooms

JJohn September 28, 2023 10:07 PM

A recent global survey conducted by JournalismAI – an initiative supported by the Google News Initiative – reveals the widespread use and rising concerns of AI in newsrooms, ranging from news gathering to distribution. While the AI tools are seen as useful in streamlining processes, ethical implications and the need for human intervention remain major considerations.

AI tools prevalent in global newsrooms

According to a global survey carried out by JournalismAI, AI is quickly becoming a staple in newsrooms worldwide. Over three-quarters of the respondents confirmed they incorporate AI tools in some part of their news process, whether that's gathering, producing, or distributing news. This widespread adoption points to the increasing recognition of AI's potential to streamline news processes and improve efficiency.

The reasons for using AI are clear – over half of the survey respondents cited increased efficiency and enhanced productivity as motivating factors. By automating monotonous and repetitive tasks, AI frees up journalists to focus on more valuable parts of their work. Furthermore, about a third of those surveyed believe AI technologies can aid in reaching a broader audience and personalizing reader experiences, thereby enhancing audience engagement.

Concerns over ethical implications of AI

Despite the perceived benefits, the integration of AI in newsrooms is not without its concerns. Over 60% of respondents expressed apprehension about the ethical implications of AI, specifically in regards to editorial quality, accuracy, fairness, and transparency. These concerns highlight the importance of human intervention in monitoring and mitigating potential harms of AI systems, such as bias and inaccuracy.

Challenges of AI in the Global South

The report underscores that not all newsrooms experience the benefits of AI in the same way. Particularly, newsrooms in the Global South face unique challenges. Most AI tools are developed with a focus on English, and resources are usually concentrated in a few countries, creating barriers for non-English newsrooms. Moreover, differing political realities might affect people’s trust in AI, further complicating its adoption in these regions.

Extensive use of AI despite ethical concerns

The survey reveals that, despite the concerns, the usage of AI in newsrooms is extensive. In fact, 90% of newsrooms are utilizing some form of AI in news production, 80% in news distribution, and 75% in news gathering. This includes tasks such as automated transcription and translation, extracting text from images, and using automated summarization tools. However, the level of AI adoption varies greatly, with some newsrooms merely using AI for spell-checking, while others leverage it to generate full articles.

Lack of AI strategy in many organizations

An intriguing finding from the survey is that, while AI adoption is widespread and concerns about its use are prevalent, only about a third of the organizations surveyed have an AI strategy in place or are in the process of creating one. This discrepancy suggests that, despite recognizing the benefits and potential pitfalls of AI, many newsrooms have yet to formulate a comprehensive approach to integrating these powerful tools into their operations.

Tech companies, such as Google, are at the forefront of developing AI tools, even as they spark new ethical and legal concerns. In the media industry, responses to these technologies are mixed. Several newsrooms have blocked AI tools like GPTBot from OpenAI due to data usage concerns, and authors have taken legal action against OpenAI and Meta for using their work to train AI. Despite these issues, many news agencies have also formed partnerships with AI companies, showing the complex relationship between the media industry and AI technologies.

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