April 16, 2019

AI is improving, not taking journalists' jobs

While the fear of AI replacing human jobs in certain sectors might be warranted, those in the journalism field can breathe a sigh of relief and even rejoice, according to journalists from the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, WIRED, Dogtown Media and Graphika.

Earlier in March, five journalists from those publications met with and spoke to over 1,000 students across the Missouri School of Journalism, the Trulaske College of Business, the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Science on March 18-19 as part of the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Innovation Series.

The overall message was that AI is bringing positive change to the news field such as through customized content, improved user relationships, moderating comment sections, and creating more efficient workflows.

Some key takeaways

  • Artificial intelligence is a tool to allow journalists to better understand readers. “Can we make a story more personally relevant to a user, to the reader, watcher or listener? If we can do that, that’s what makes people establish trust. Not just that the information is believable, but the information is believable AND it matters to ME.” (Jeremy Gilbert, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Washington Post)
  • We must recognize what AI is and is not capable of in order to make it work for us. It is certainly an imperfect tool, but has allowed Conde Naste publications to make more strategic spending decisions with advertising thanks to data that provides a better understanding of its users. (Jahna Berry, Head of Content Operations, WIRED)
  • AI offers a means for journalists to re-imagine and better leverage their skill sets. The issue that has always existed for journalists that “there’s always been more data than (journalists) can sift through, You just have to know how to ask the right questions (of) the data, the records, to get (to the) relevant story.” (Nick Monaco, Disinformation Analyst, Graphicka)
  • Journalists need to know who writes the algorithms behind AI, understand their intentions and ultimately hold them accountable. (Steve Rosenbush, Enterprise Technology Editor, The Wallstreet Journal)
  • AI is useful to journalists in allowing them to work smarter, faster and more efficiently. This will then free up more time for journalists and other knowledge workers to think creatively on problem solving and apply themselves to what they do best. (March Fischer, CEO and Co-founder, Dogtown Media)

We’ve been here before

In an episode of MAEKAN It Up, we discussed the potential impact of AI on the creative industries and the workers in them. As with journalism, the importance of human intuition will remain a key factor that prevents the complete replacement of human creative jobs, but it will at least replace a number of human tasks—hopefully the least desirable ones.

Regardless of the job nature, there will always be tasks that are important but time-consuming and that require significantly less creative thinking. And it’s these tasks that we would be happy to allow AI to “have” so that it frees us up to do other things that utilize more of our skill set. Or even better, it can do several rough but usable first passes or concepts that we can then tweak or re-iterate from.

Overall, like Monaco and Fischer above, we remain confident that for now, AI has a welcome role to play by doing our tasks, but they won’t be taking our entire jobs.

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