Business Wire news has been a part of the Associated Press and Press Association’s newswire for decades. As both organisations have introduced AI journalism in the last few years, we wanted to invite them along to discuss how the news industry is changing in the face of this new technology.

We seem to be reading a new story every week about the automation of jobs and industries all over the world. No industry seems to be totally future-proof – but how about journalism?

Business Wire UK invited Press Association’s Editor-in-chief Pete Clifton, technology journalist and founder of Gadgette Holly Brockwell and Associated Press’­­­­ Paul Shanley to discuss how automation and technology are affecting the industry today.

How are news agencies and journalists using AI today?

  • PA’s RADAR project has enabled the production of thousands of stories based on ONS data. The AI can mine complex data sets for interesting stories for regional newspapers about crime, births, deaths, marriages, healthcare and more.
  • AP also deploy data-to-text journalism in their output. Quarterly earnings reports, sports statistics and financial market data can all be the basis of AI driven editorial output.
  • Holly runs the website Gadgette, which focuses on technology news for a female audience. She uses AI tools to track search data, and can tailor her editorial schedule accordingly.

Which areas of journalism will employ automation in future?

  • Automated editing for highlight packages, trailers etc.
  • Photographs – AI can search for and tag multimedia while a piece is being written.
  • Intersectional news –Taking seemingly unrelated data sets and finding weird and wonderful correlations can create really engaging content. For example, is there any correlation between property prices and the locations of Pokémon Go Pokéstops?
  • Accessibility – subtitles, translations and captions will become better and better, bringing news to an international audience and to audiences with disabilities.
  • Personalisation – AI can use publically available data to personalise and target content at certain audiences. Will this exacerbate the issue of “echo chambers” when it comes to news consumption or do people skip what they don’t want to read anyway?

What’s making our panel apprehensive or even pessimistic?

  • Generic, boring content. All of our speakers were concerned that if content becomes more computer-led, editorial standards could suffer. AI can’t replace creativity or human perspectives.
  • Ethics. Industry leaders have the responsibility to ensure that every story involving AI meets the ethical standards of traditional journalism.
  • Cost cutting. In a climate of financial uncertainty for much of the news media, there are concerns that automation could be applied for short-term cost cutting purposes. The panel were clear that using AI should be to add value, streamline manual processes and increase the scope and scale of journalistic output.

Overall, the panel were optimistic about the future.

For news consumers, more areas of public life can be opened up for scrutiny and analysis. Publications will be able to use AI to shine a light on issues that historically there has not been the journalistic resources to cover.

For journalists, technology is removing mundane and repetitive tasks from the role, as well as opening up more avenues to tell interesting stories that would not have been possible before. As readerships become larger and more diverse, AI will allow journalism to scale with the audience.

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