As concerns grow about the negative impact of generative AI-powered newsrooms, such as the replacement of human staff with AI-generated content creators, the future of journalism appears uncertain. With predictions indicating the potential closure of a third of the nation’s newsrooms by the mid-2020s, the rise of AI poses a significant challenge to journalists. However, AI doesn’t have to be seen solely as a threat. Recent developments showcased by six research teams at NYU Media Lab’s AI & Local News Initiative demo day in June highlight the transformative potential of AI in revolutionizing the gathering and production of local news.
Now in its second year, the initiative aims to assist local news organizations in harnessing the power of artificial intelligence for their success. Supported by a $3 million grant from the Knight Foundation and in collaboration with the Associated Press, Brown Institute’s Local News Lab, NYC Media Lab, and the Partnership on AI, the initiative fosters the development of AI applications for local news. The goal is to empower journalists, support news organizations’ sustainability, and provide high-quality information to local news audiences, as reported by NYU Tandon’s news service.
The participating teams, composed of both academia and private industry, have collaborated over a 12-week development course to address these objectives. By bringing together experts from various angles, the initiative aims to facilitate innovative solutions to the challenges faced by the local news landscape.
One of the teams, Bangla AI, focuses on developing a web platform that surfaces and translates relevant news stories into the Bengali language, benefiting journalists and the Bangladeshi immigrant community in New York City. This initiative aims to bridge the language barrier and enable access to news for the half of the population not fluent in English, allowing them to stay informed about current events.
Chequeado, a non-profit organization combating disinformation in public discourse, showcased its Chequeabot platform, Monitorio, which utilizes AI and natural language processing to streamline fact-checking efforts in Spanish-language media. By monitoring social media for trending misinformation and alerting fact-checkers, this technology helps mitigate the spread of false information.
The Newsroom AI team from Cornell University introduced their writing assistant platform, Newsroom, which automates common tasks such as transcription, information organization, image and headline generation, and SEO implementation. Notably, this system can even write articles in a journalist’s personal style if provided with sufficient training examples, freeing up journalists to focus on more critical news coverage instead of repetitive tasks.
WNYC, New York’s largest public radio station, developed a speech-to-text model to provide real-time captioning and transcription for its live broadcasts. By leveraging AI to perform speech-to-text transformation, WNYC aims to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing community. This technology offers a cost-effective and scalable alternative to human-driven closed-captioning, ensuring wider accessibility for their audio content.
In addition to these initiatives, NOBL Media has developed an ad tech product that allows programmatic advertisers to reach smaller targeted audiences based on geography or demography, supporting local news publishers. Meanwhile, the Graham Media Group created an automated natural language text prompter, designed to foster civil discussions in the comments sections of local news articles. By generating thought-provoking conversation starters, this tool aims to prevent dominant voices from overpowering discussions and provide structure to promote meaningful engagement.
While concerns about the impact of AI on journalism persist, Matt Macvey, Community and Project Lead for the AI & Local News Initiative, remains optimistic. He believes that AI tools and automations showcased during the demo day can provide journalists and editorial staff with increased bandwidth, allowing them to cover more news and maximize their resources.
As the landscape of journalism continues to evolve, it is crucial to recognize the potential of AI as a valuable tool rather than viewing it solely as a threat. By leveraging AI technologies, local newsrooms have the opportunity to adapt, innovate, and deliver high-quality news to their audiences, while combatting misinformation and fostering a more accessible and inclusive news environment.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about AI-empowered local newsrooms
What is the AI & Local News Initiative?
The AI & Local News Initiative is a program aimed at harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to transform the gathering and production of local news.
How does AI help local newsrooms combat misinformation?
AI technologies showcased in the initiative assist in fact-checking efforts, monitoring social media for trending misinformation, and providing real-time captioning and transcription for live broadcasts.
What benefits does AI bring to local journalism?
AI empowers local newsrooms by automating tasks like transcription, information organization, image and headline generation, and SEO implementation. It also enhances accessibility for diverse audiences and promotes civil discussions in comment sections.
How does AI support language diversity in local news?
Platforms like Bangla AI translate relevant news stories into Bengali, enabling the Bengali-speaking community to access information that is traditionally available only in English.
Will AI replace journalists in local newsrooms?
The aim of AI in local newsrooms is to augment journalists’ work and provide them with more bandwidth to cover news effectively, rather than replacing them entirely. AI tools serve as valuable assistants in streamlining tasks and increasing efficiency.