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Risks and opportunities of AI in journalism

Αμπου Ντάμπι Παγκόσμιο Συνέδριο ΜΜΕ Ψευδείς Ειδήσεις
World media conference in Dubai

The hot topic of artificial intelligence use in journalism was discussed at a recent world media conference in Dubai, with experts agreeing that the technology offers both opportunity and risks.

AI tools can be used to easily identify stories that appeal to the public, which may differ from what an editorial board would promote, journalists attending the conference, hosted by the UAE’s news agency (WAM), heard. The Cyprus News Agency also attended.

The tools make it easier to gather information, create content and tailor news to specific audiences, while tasks such as translation and furthering press releases, can be done in an automated manner freeing up journalists to focus on creating original content.

Prototype AI tools presented by UAE University (UAEU) at the conference, included an “AI News Digest” tool which processes long inputted texts, identifying and summarising the main points and reading them out in a user-selected voice.

Another tool presented was a fact checker based on Chat GPT, that detects whether an inputted sentence is true or false, provides more information and corrects any errors.

A survey of 70 news organisations that have been using AI programs over the past 12 months, was presented at the conference by London School of Economics (LSE) Professor Charlie Beckett, head of the “AI in the Newsroom” programme.

Problems and risks identified through the survey will be examined and used to determine specific guidelines to guard basic journalistic principles and the values of each participating organisation, Beckett explained.

The professor said the survey revealed productivity rose by as much as 30 per cent in organisations that used AI, and journalists expressed satisfaction with their ability to investigate new ideas and work faster.

Positive feedback was given by 83 per cent of participating journalists in the survey and, while 49 per cent expressed fears of being replaced, 75 per cent nonetheless said they were willing to outsource part of their job to AI.

“The role of AI tools is to augment not replace the journalist’s role,” Beckett pointed out, citing the need for transparency and clarity around the issue. He noted that AI has the potential to make large news organisations bigger, but also to make small organisations stand out in ways not previously possible.

An African journalist pointed to the fact that most tools are derived from the West and that this implies a built-in bias, noting there is a need to develop such tools based on specific markets.

The conference also explored how journalistic ethics, such as accuracy and impartiality, could be safeguarded and expressed that a requirement is for the system to remain people centred.

To this end, attendees proposed establishing guidelines to monitor and oversee AI generated news.

A risk that was highlighted concerns news that must be told which would be overlooked as a result of AI algorithms operating purely in line with trends, based on monitoring public interests.

Additionally, it was postulated that a human-centric news service rather than a “content generating factory” is what differentiates the news, giving the edge for which news consumers are willing to pay.

The big challenge of fake news, including images, produced using AI was also brought up with experts noting that while tools also exist to detect false as well as AI generated images and texts, the technology was always “one step behind”.

Experts noted that an important aspect of responsible journalism is training in critical literacy and investing in tools and resources to cross-check and verify news items.

Omar Sultan Al Olama, UAE Minister of Artificial Intelligence – the first minister in the world in this field – noted that organisations that successfully manage to uphold their reliability while also integrating AI, are the ones that will benefit the most.

For his part, the UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, emphasised that as the media industry undergoes the current rapid changes, what matters is not the technology used, but the outputting of genuinely valuable content.

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