AI in the Newsroom: The Need for an Ethical Framework for Journalism of the Future

Journalists are key people in relaying information on happenings worldwide, and such a profession is not to be treated lightly.

As we all know, in recent years AI has been on the verge of penetrating almost all industries of which journalism has experienced the most probable effect.

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In the first half of 2023, many professionals within the journalism sphere were posed with doubt and unanswered questions on all things AI. “What can ChatGPT do actually? What is generative AI? What is a language model? What is a prompt? How dependable are these tools? What kind of skills are required to use them? How fast is this technology improving? What are the risks? How much of all this is just hype? ”

As of now, journalists have embraced the incorporation of AI into their everyday work routine. With the increasing number of journalists adopting the use of AI to complement their work, serious questions linger in my head – “to what extent should AI be allowed in Journalism?”, “how trustworthy is AI for it to complement journalists?”

I reckon you too might have similar questions in mind. An ethical framework must be in place to ensure AI is applied in the right way without any abuse.

Life after the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a dramatic shift in news consumption. Many people tend to refer to online sources such as Instagram, Meta, X,  and others for news. With this vicissitude, taking a digital journalism degree will be a good shot in the long run, looking at how AI is lurking in the shadows of journalism.

This article will discuss how AI is currently being used by journalists, why an ethical framework is needed, and what this framework might include.

In what ways are journalists incorporating state-of-the-art AI into their work?

A report titled “Generating Change: A Global Survey of What News Organizations Are Doing with Artificial Intelligence” published by Journalism AI garners the perspective of more than 120 editors, journalists, technologies, and media makers from 105 small and large newsrooms across 46 countries.

More than 75% of the participants in the survey mentioned that they used AI somewhere in the chain of news gathering, production, and distribution. Their reason being that AI has increased efficiency and enhanced productivity of their work.

Let’s explore the various ways in which AI is being used within this domain.

1. News article generator

Generative AI is a form of AI that is used by journalists to create high-quality texts and reports.

Newsrooms such as EXPRESS.de currently have adopted a variant of generative AI that structures texts, conducts extensive content research, and provides good summaries of huge amounts of information very quickly and efficiently.

EXPRESS.de continually reminds its readers that humans actively review the content that generative AI produces. This is mainly to eliminate the potential risk of bias.

During the 6th International Twipe Digital Growth Summit, Arist von Harpe offered a perspective on the adoption of AI as a news article generator: “We do not highlight AI-aided articles. We are only using AI as a tool. As with any tool, it is always the person using it who is responsible for what comes out.”

2. AI as an image generator

Journalists are resorting to the use of AI to create images, illustrations, and infographics for news now more than ever before.

AI has the power to convert textual data into a picture in a matter of seconds.

Using AI as an image generator is good for helping cut down costs associated with employing a photographer, increase efficiency among journalists, and provide a pedestal for infinite creativity, scalability, and consistency.

Visuals obtained from AI are yet another great way to ensure the target market is reached.

3. AI as a knowledge base

Another branch of AI is known as large language models (LLMs).  LLM are AI models that comprehend and generate human language.

LLMs work by analyzing huge amounts of data sets from independent sources such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, and other big corporations.

With LLM being developed off large datasets, news outlets such as Mediahuis based in Europe are looking at potential avenues in using LLMs as the base for knowledge.

Such a development will pave the way for more seamless AI-driven journalism solutions.

4. AI as a quiz generator

News corporations such as Reuters are exploring the power of AI in providing some interactive quizzes to readers of Reuters.

Research has shown that quizzes in the form of games aid in retaining monthly readers and increasing the subscriber base. As such, several news outlets are jumping on this trend.

So Why is an Ethical Framework Needed?

1. Oversight prevention

Recognized news agencies such as Aftonbladet, VG, CBC, and Insider have raised concerns about the potential of AI making huge errors in their write-ups.

With no checks in place, users might consume news that possibly might contain oversights which invariably contributes to the spread of misinformation.

Humans are very prone to oversights, how much more AI?

2. Transparency

More often than not, AI-written articles are not explicitly stated in the introduction.

Articles written by AI must be informed to the reader as this will help the reader make an informed decision on whether to purchase that particular news or not.

Most importantly, transparency on whether a human reviewed the article written by AI is needed to reaffirm to readers that there is no risk of bias in the publication.

3. Accountability & Responsibility, Privacy & Confidentiality

Another key reason why an ethical framework is needed is to address accountability and responsibility for accuracy, fairness, originality, and transparency yet again.

Privacy and confidentiality are of equal importance in ensuring sensitive information is not easily shared nor without the intent to obtain the necessary clearance to do so.

What must the Ethical Framework Include?

Undoubtedly, an ethical framework for AI in journalism must include a risk assessment tool.

A risk assessment tool will help map, measure, and manage potential risks in AI and simultaneously offer measures to reduce identified risks.  The risk management framework by the United States government would be of great importance here.

The establishment of a diverse group to map out guidelines for the adoption of AI in journalism will be a great asset. This diverse group must consist of individuals from various professions to ensure the guidelines favor everyone.

Conclusion

While it is clear that AI is playing an instrumental role in journalism, an ethical framework will be much appreciated. An ethical framework will help maintain the value of news which include impact, timeliness, prominence, proximity, the bizarre, conflict, currency, and human interest.