How do we harness the potential of AI in journalism without compromising the ethical pillars that underpin the profession?
Today’s journalism has moved beyond the mechanical intricacies of yesteryear, such as the laborious process Dean Coombs once undertook at the Saguache Crescent, meticulously arranging metal type to press news onto paper.
We’ve transitioned from the mechanical to the digital, and now, on the horizon looms the age of artificial intelligence. This progression prompts a critical inquiry: Will there come a time when machines can autonomously handle the entire news production process?
AI in Journalism – Mike Humphrey’s Challenge
Mike Humphrey, a forward-thinking assistant professor of journalism at Colorado State University, has been probing the implications of AI in journalism well before the advent of sophisticated platforms like ChatGPT.
Over the last eight years, he has challenged his students with a provocative question: “In a decade, when I’m at the helm of a media enterprise, what justifies hiring you over an AI system? Considering you won’t match its efficiency, you’ll need sick days, and you won’t operate round-the-clock, what makes you the preferable choice?”
This dilemma isn’t confined to academic speculation; it’s a reality faced by newsrooms nationwide. The journey into AI-driven journalism began in earnest in 2014 when The Associated Press led the charge by automating its financial earnings reports. This innovation was quickly followed by The Washington Post, which employed algorithms to transform real-time election data into publishable content. More recently, the New York Times marked a significant milestone by appointing its inaugural editorial director for AI initiatives.
Incorporation of AI in Journalism
A study conducted by the London School of Economics and Political Science sheds light on the pervasive integration of AI in journalism, revealing that 75% of the 120 surveyed editors and journalists worldwide have incorporated AI at some stage of their news production workflow. However, this widespread adoption of AI brings to the fore a host of ethical considerations.
Mike Humphrey voices a concern shared by many in the field, emphasizing the dual challenge of navigating moral principles and addressing the industry’s pre-existing trust deficits. “The ethical dimension is undeniable,” he asserts. “We’re grappling with fundamental questions of right and wrong. Journalism is already contending with trust issues, and a lack of clarity about our use of AI could rapidly exacerbate this problem. To truly foster trust with our audience, transparency is paramount.”
As we stand at the crossroads of technological advancement and journalistic integrity, the question remains: How do we harness the potential of AI in journalism without compromising the ethical pillars that underpin the profession?