AI in journalism is not the future – it’s now

29.04.2021 · By Farah Khalique

The biggest enabler for journalists over the next few years will be the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) tools, say seven in ten publishers, according to an influential Reuters report on trends and predictions in journalism, media and technology in 2021. AI is the rare case of a technology that has the potential to affect all stages of the editorial process – from research to content creation and distribution – as well as the marketing and business side of journalism.  

“The important thing is figuring out how to release your journalists from having to do the mundane tasks so that they can focus on the high-value projects that people come to us for. That’s really the sweet spot of AI at the moment.” – Cait O’Riordan, Chief Product and Information Officer at the Financial Times, 2020 Journalism AI Festival

Here are experts’ top seven trends in journalism to look out for with advice on how you can incorporate them into the newsroom. 

All newsrooms – big or small – need the best journalism tools

Most newsrooms are under pressure from the decline in copy sales and advertising revenues, exacerbated by the pandemic and continued dominance of the Google/Facebook duopoly. The largest players can develop in-house AI tools to find time and cost-saving efficiencies but smaller, regional, nonprofit newsrooms won’t have the resources to develop their own AI strategies – even though they would reap the benefits of more efficient working. The worry is that AI could exacerbate the gap between media giants and the rest, creating an imbalanced media ecosystem of the “haves” and the “have nots”. 

A,Journalist,Working,On,A,Computer,In,Newsroom

“Many smaller news organisations don’t have the money to invest in long-term R&D or pay for data scientists and fear being left behind. The majority of our respondents (65%) feel that big publishers will end up benefiting most.” – Reuters Institute

The tools gap is being tackled by tech start-ups passionate about democratising artificial intelligence to make it accessible to publishers of all sizes. LOYAL is a cost-effective AI research tool that helps writers research, write and refine articles faster. The automated technology helps to add and find trustworthy sources, unlock the value in content archives, check out content of other publishers, and leverage SEO opportunities inside the content creation platform.

Covid is speeding up digital transformation of newsrooms

More than three-quarters (76%) of media leaders say the pandemic has sped up plans for digital transformation in the following areas: 

  • working practices
  • journalism and different formats
  • business models 
  • how media companies think about innovation. 

The pace of innovation will remain strong this year as media companies accelerate their digital plans. But with little money available for big new investments, 7 in 10 companies are likely to focus on improvements to existing products and brands rather than developing ‘moonshots’ or creating entirely new products.

Publishers don’t need to scrimp on beneficial new software, rather they can plug into white-lable solutions like LOYAL without needing to invest in proprietary software. Using the power of machine learning (ML), LOYAL’s archive-focused Google Chrome extension surfaces value-rich past content and displays these articles down the side of a working document within Google Docs, giving journalists context, internal linking and content refreshing opportunities fast.

Dan Reeves, Co-Founder at LOYAL, says, “AI tools should become a strategic objective in any organisation’s digital transformation. LOYAL delivers cutting-edge technology without the publisher or journalist having to make a significant investment.”

Confidence in journalism is returning 

Confidence in journalism more widely has increased from 46% to 53%, when compared to last year’s Reuters survey. This may be partly because record audience figures during the coronavirus crisis have demonstrated the value that the public places on reliable information. 

“One can call it a renaissance of the news. Corona has affected everyone, so fact-based reporting represents a lifeline for the vast majority of our audience.” – Kaius Niemi, Senior Editor-in-Chief, Helsingin Sanom.

LOYAL can help users quickly find reliable, validated sources with its curated database of sources, personalisation and sentiment functions. LOYAL delivers swift and accurate results.

Data will drive stories

Get ready to take some of the ‘gut feeling’ out of journalism and undertake much more structured research on what audiences actually consume and what stories journalists should be investigating. Journalists, at our core, want to inform citizens, help them make better choices, have an impact and improve society. 

This will be driven by hard figures sourced using AI tools such as Google’s Pinpoint, a research tool that finds important stories within troves of forms, handwritten documents, images, email archives, PDFs and so on. During the worst days of the pandemic, journalists at the Financial Times were able to mine coronavirus-related data such as cases, hospitalizations and deaths per country for more in-depth stories. 

Ben Martin, Co-Founder at LOYAL, says, “Our automated technology helps to add and find trustworthy sources, check out content of other publishers, and leverage SEO opportunities inside the content creation platform. The solution allows users to easily receive key information from different parts of the world in real-time.”

Fewer mundane tasks, more time for creative work

Most journalists can agree that we undertake tasks that are not always the best use of our time. Replacing antiquated processes with big data processing and AI tools free up resources to allow for more creative work and, in turn, unique content. 

Anita Zielina, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, says, “Think about the tens of thousands of people who click Copy + Paste at the same time, with the same press release. I do feel that there there are resources there that could be better used for creating unique content [and] investigative journalism, so that makes me optimistic about the potential of AI in news organisations.”

Journalists will increasingly be able to escape the office and conduct more face-to-face reporting and network in communities because of technology. LOYAL delivers a one-click research solution that delivers up to 50% time savings, freeing journalists from mundane tasks such as repeated search engine searches, scrolling through lengthy content archives and unnecessary reading. 

Journalism will look a lot more like the tech world

Journalists need to be at the table to shape AI as designers and creators, instead of just pulling tech off the shelf. Nick Diakopoulos, Associate Professor in Communication Studies and Computer Science at Northwestern University, explains why.

“When you do that you end up getting the technology that tech giant produced in order to solve some other problem that may not be in alignment with [the] problem that you actually want to solve. And so I think we’ve got to understand how to be human-centred designers, we’ve got to see how it all fits together.”

There’s actually some resistance [to AI] it’s incredibly important to educate newsrooms about the potential and raise some appetite for that kind of change. Let people know the possibilities and the opportunities so that they don’t see it as a risk but as an opportunity to make journalism better.” Alexandra Borchardt – Head of Digital Journalism Fellowship, Hamburg Media School

Stay at the cutting edge of journalism and try LOYAL’s writing productivity tools. You can download LOYAL from the Google Chrome Web Store and use within a working Google Doc. Within seconds, it will retrieve the most related articles from an extensive range of trusted sources. These will appear down the side of your article, ready to embed.  

You can use the tools to both find evergreen content within your website archives that can be refreshed and LOYAL helps in the refreshing process itself too, highlighting new statistics, case studies and information to enrich previous pieces. 

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