A collaborative path to supercharge journalism

The following is a foreword to the newly published report “The next wave of disruption: Emerging market media use of artificial intelligence and machine learning” by Professor Charlie Beckett, Director of the POLIS/ LSE Journalism AI Project

Please find the full report here.

Journalism is traditionally highly competitive but when it comes to new technologies, collaboration might be a better strategy. This goes against the grain for many news organisations who pride themselves on their independence. But when it comes to the adoption of so-called Artificial Intelligence in the newsroom working with others can save time, resources and mistakes.

Machine learning, automation, personalisation, data analysis and natural language processing tools can supercharge the modern news media. They can help boost your audience retention and revenues. They can do a lot of the difficult or boring work, leaving the human journalists to concentrate on adding creativity and judgement. They can help with newsgathering, content creation or distribution.

But AI is a relatively new set of technologies for journalism and these algorithmically-driven systems need special skills and strategies. They can be complex technically. Their development and implementation can be complicated and needs working out to suit your organisation’s special needs. There are risks as well as opportunities with AI. Collaboration can be a great short-cut to that goal.

By collaboration I mean working across the usual departmental barriers within the news organisation. AI should not be left to the technology team and in turn, the technologists need to be integrated into the news production process. AI is changing journalism and that means creating new positions or roles and a more collaborative work pattern. You will need some kind of AI strategy.

Collaboration might also mean working with other news organisations, especially on designing new tools. There is so much to learn from other people’s knowledge and experience. It is tough to do it on your own. Other people will have made mistakes or found clever solutions. Learn from them. In the end everyone benefits.

It is also very efficient to collaborate with other organisations such as the technology companies, start-ups and AI labs within universities. Everyone has a mutual interest in collaborating to increase the effectiveness of AI in journalism. But news organisations need to build those relationships.

Our research on AI and journalism around the world showed that there are increasing inequalities for news organisations. The danger is that local news and media in emerging economies might fall behind. The big global brands have the R&D resources to buy in or develop their own systems. But the others will have to work together if they want to capture the benefits of AI for themselves.

The first step is to have people in your organisation who will educate themselves about AI for journalism. You will need to recruit or collaborate with experts. Start small but think strategically and bring as many colleagues into the process as possible. The world around us is going to be transformed by AI over the next few years. The news media is no exception. No, there won’t be robots taking over from human journalists. But AI is the latest wave of technological change and it pays to work with others to see what it can do for you.