Artificial Intelligence and new technologies are increasingly becoming part of the fabric of many newsrooms impacting all stages of journalistic practice from production to consumption.
At the 2022 African Investigative Journalism Conference, keynote speaker London School of Economics professor Charlie Beckett reflected on the host of opportunities that have been presented by new digital technologies but also pointed out how AI can and has supported the newsroom.
Attitudes toward the deployment of AI in news publishing are changing, opening up a host of potential opportunities for journalists and media practitioners to improve and speed up journalistic processes and storytelling.
However, in many shrinking newsrooms across the world, the process of this growth includes automation by AI but this doesn’t happen seamlessly without fear of job losses.
Reflecting on panic about AI, Beckett pointed out that AI cannot replace journalists or the work of media practitioners, but it can enhance it.
“There’s no AI Newsroom, there are only newsrooms that use AI,” he said.
“AI generally speaking does stuff that humans could do but it’s very boring or it does stuff at scale and/or at a speed that humans couldn’t do but it’s always augmenting the editorial processes,” he added.
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A report by the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-INFRA) found that 77% of news publishers identified AI as a key success factor for their businesses for the next three years. However, it would appear that editors in Africa do not share the same enthusiasm about using AI.
A study published in 2021 October by award-winning journalists Allen Munoriyarwa, Sarah Chiumbu and Gilbert Motsaathebe uncovered skepticism about the use of AI among editors from South African mainstream newsrooms.
According to the journalists, this cynicism was “driven by fear of job losses, the costs of adopting AI, limited training and ethical issues around AI and its efficacy in the democratic process”.
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