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Journalism in the age of AI: How media companies are putting computers to use

Artificial Intelligence is both helping and hurting journalists. Is regulation in the future?
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Artificial Intelligence is both helping and hurting journalists. Is regulation in the future?

Media companies are still trying to figure out how they will use artificial intelligence. Some publications are all in, like the tabloid newspaper Bild. Its owner, Axel Springer, wrote in a company email that "artificial intelligence has the potential to make independent journalism better than it ever was."

Earlier this month, Bild eliminated the jobs of editors, proofreaders, secretaries and photo editors and replaced them with computers. Springer also owns Die Welt, Fakt, Politico, Business Insider and other media brands. But apparently, they are not affected.

The tech news website CNET has suspended its program to write stories using AI after there were too many mistakes.

Other news outlets are stepping very carefully into the world of AI. The Associated Press lets computers write business and sports stories. The BBC is experimenting with AI for local election updates, and the Wall Street Journal uses it to draft stories. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has AI put together and send 50,000 subscribers a daily afternoon email with stories based on their reading history.

RELATED: NPR's 'Planet Money' creates an episode using artificial intelligence

NiemanReports says there are smart ways journalists can exploit artificial intelligence.

The Finnish public broadcaster Yle noticed tens of thousands of Ukrainians now in Finland because of the war, and turned to AI software to translate.

The French newspaper Le Monde now has an English-language edition thanks to artificial intelligence. "They are written and edited in the outlet's native language," NiemanReports explains, "then translated to English with AI, and reviewed by an editor before publishing."

Le Monde wants to eventually make the English edition a source of revenue.

The Council on Foreign Relations shone a light on AI with its webinar, "Reporting on AI and the Future of Journalism."

CFR Local Journalists Webinar: Reporting on AI and the Future of Journalism

During this webinar, veteran technology reporter Benjamin Pimentel, who writes for the San Francisco Examiner, questioned if new reporters would go the extra mile because of AI tools. "Chat GPT can take care of that so you don't have to cover city council meetings, which for me was a very positive experience," he says. "I mean, I hated it when I was doing it but eventually looking back that was good. I learned how to talk to a city politician. I learned how to tell if he's lying to me or not and that enables me to write stories later on in my career that are more analytical."

Pimentel also worries about what point of view AI articles might have.

Google Deep Mind's Dex Hunter-Torricke was asked how often Google's AI, Bard, makes mistakes. He admits there are errors and says it's something that future versions of the technology will continue to tackle. As Bard and other apps learn more information, Hunter-Torricke says they'll become smarter. But he cautions journalists must be held to a higher level if they use AI to write stories.

RELATED: How will artificial intelligence affect health care systems?

"I think you can trust a lot of things you find there but you do have to verify them and certainly as journalists, as media organizations, there's a much larger responsibility to do that than folks who may be looking at these experimental tools for fun and amusement," says Hunter-Torricke.

As media companies and the general public increasingly use AI, some lawmakers are concerned. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has launched a major push on regulation. Tech reporter Pimentel says we can't trust the AI companies to regulate themselves.

"My problem is it's now a competitive landscape," he says. "It's become part of the new competition in tech and when you have that kind of competition, things get missed or shortcuts are done."

Lawmakers will now decide if regulation is needed and if so, how much.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.