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What opportunities and pitfalls does AI's growth within journalism entail?

Gothenburg University, AI Competence for Sweden and Medier & demokrati gathered heads of media and researches at a near-capacity conference at Lindholmen. On the agenda: share experience and take a look at the outlook for the future.

The power of artificial intelligence, automation and machine learning is changing industries and society. Journalism in the digital media landscape and thus democracy are no exception. The focal point of the AI within Journalism conference was how artificial intelligence as a rapidly growing technology affects journalism, editorial staffs, ethics, practice and media participants' need for greater competence.

The day was divided into two segments: a seminar with two introductory speakers and a workshop with three parallel sessions. The workshops had the following topics:

  • AI in the daily editorial work
  • How does AI change ethics and practice?
  • What competence does the media require? 

AI increases the number of subscriptions

img_3787.jpgThe first speaker was Daniel Nordström, Editor-in-Chief and head of Vestmanlands läns tidning in Västerås (VLT) VLT is a part of Mittmedia, a corporate group that has been owned by Bonnier News and Norway-based Amedia since this spring and which has had an expressed focus on a shift to digitalisation. The key to the shift is working with a more data-based approach and with the support of AI. 

Daniel Nordström gave his perspective on the development as a publisher.  He explained, for instance, that the editorial staff within Mittmedia is not merely complemented with extremely productive robots within some areas. The editorial staff has also accepted that the technology is better at packaging news sites that attract more subscribers. 

Daniel Nordström also talked about daily challenges that automated production and publication can seem to be happening too quickly. When Mittmedia's real estate robot gathers and writes about new residential sales, it can happen so quickly that the seller and buyer have not always necessarily informed other affected parties, which has caused some reactions.

Does before become more important than after?

img_9271.jpgThe second speaker of the day was former financial journalist Carl-Gustav Lindén, who is now a researcher at Helsinki University and Södertörn University. He described how AI can strengthen journalism and simultaneously demonstrated that editorial staffs have had a wait-and-see approach thus far. AI is easily labelled as a technological development and not a part of journalistic innovation and development and where the pros and cons of journalism play an important role.

The three workshops were each introduced with an inspirational speaker.

  • AI in the daily editorial work.

Cecilia Campbell from United Robots discussed various automated editorial services that are currently available or in development.

  • How does AI change ethics and practice?

Avery Holten, lecturer at the University of Utah in the USA, researches the grey area between journalism, digital and social media, and society. He talked about how standards, values, practices and ethics can change with AI and how journalistic ethics must enter an environment that is characterised by more innovation and experimentation.

  • What competence does the media require?

Tomas de Souza, former head of innovation at Bonnier News and current consultant, presented factors that he considers essential for the media in an increasingly data-guided world: 

  • The ability to foresee what will happen instead of telling about what has happened. 
  • To become more effective in product development.
  • Ensure that the systems are capable of following the ethical principles that steer journalism. The reason is that AI enables drastically increased production capacities.

- We have received a lot of positive feedback and the ambition is to continue to stimulate interaction and collaboration between media players and academics working with the topic. It is happening now and will probably be even more important in the future. Moreover, Lindholmen Science Park has been leading AI Innovation of Sweden, the national centre for applied AI innovation and research, says Martin Holmberg, head of the programme for Medier & demokrati.

Footnote: Medier & demokrati will publish a report summarising the conference content and core emphases later this autumn.