AP report: AI is an opportunity for local newsrooms

Groundbreaking report surveying hundreds of newsrooms points to the importance of AI.

By Tim Wolff VP, TV & Digital Publishing Innovation, Futuri Media

What would you choose if someone else could do part of your job? What if, instead of a person, artificial intelligence could do it? And what if it could go beyond just replacing a mundane task to actually creating ways to make your product better?

Newsrooms across America have been wondering about that, and some have actively engaged AI — artificial intelligence. How much a newsroom uses AI has a lot to do with how many resources and how much time a newsroom has to experiment.

That’s according to a new report from the Associated Press, which was part of a project where they interviewed people from hundreds of newsrooms across the U.S. The goal was to learn what newsrooms are using and what newsrooms want, then to chart a plan for getting our newsrooms to that AI future.

Quoting from the AP’s press release:

“Key findings from the report include:

  • There is a significant gap between large and small news organizations in terms of how widely AI and automation technologies are used.
  • Despite some concerns about handing off human work to machines, there is nevertheless strong support among local newsrooms for automating tasks that could free journalists for deeper reporting, streamline production or enhance content monetization.
  • While interest is high, AI technologies are not in wide use at the local level because many news outlets lack the resources or time required to experiment.”

Diving deeper into the report itself, while survey respondents came up with a wide range of uses, there were some areas where nearly everyone agreed there was a need. Finding stories a local market would care about in social media was near the top of the list for newsrooms of every kind (the AP works with newspapers, TV and radio stations, and digital-only newsrooms).

 

This quote in the report really stood out to me:

“WTAE-TV News Director Jim Parsons said that sometimes events happen in the communities the Pennsylvania station serves, and the reporting team misses it on social media. ‘We don’t have a great system in place, other than keeping our eye on TweetDeck 24/7,’ he said. WTAE-TV relies on manual scouring of local websites and social media that AI may help solve. ‘It would help to have some ‘robotic eyeballs’ trying to find these events.'”

 

Sure, as the AP’s key findings note, there is some concern among newsrooms respondents about handing human work off to machines. But when resources are finite, aren’t they better spent creating compelling content that sets your brand apart? What’s the harm in letting technology do the busy work?

Reporters in every newsroom are spending a lot of time looking through social, trying to find stories. As anyone who’s spent a lot of time on social can tell you, most of it isn’t newsworthy. Our own research here at Futuri (conducted in partnership with SmithGeiger) shows that social media is the number one way newsrooms get stories today. It’s part of what makes AI-powered TopicPulse ContentAdvantage such an incredible tool. Futuri has been creating cutting-edge AI media tools for more than a decade, and the amount of data processed through a powerful AI is a true difference-maker for newsrooms.

The survey also showed automated writing and automated personalized experiences for users were also near the top of newrooms’ wish list, among about a dozen other key newsroom needs.

The adoption of AI in newsrooms varies, as has the AI knowledge within newsrooms. The AP will begin offering classes to close the knowledge gap next month. And as artificial intelligence in the newsroom is a topic on which I’m passionate, I’ll present the session What News Managers Need Now — spoiler alert! It’s AI — at NAB Show in April (learn more about the session and how to join me by clicking here).

I applaud the Associated Press for calling attention to the benefits of AI for local news. Used correctly, AI stands to change our industry — for the better, meaningfully.

Tim Wolff is Vice President of TV and Digital Publishing Innovation at Futuri. He has 20+ years of experience as a digital and broadcasting leader who’s led top-performing teams across the country at companies including Gannet, Belo, and Cox Media Group Ohio, which includes three daily newspapers, three radio stations, WHIO-TV, and more. Wolff, who holds a Master’s in Journalism from the University of Missouri, also makes a mean green chile stew.
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