The rapid development of technology leads to the growing integration of artificial intelligence systems in a variety of professional fields, including journalism. According to the Stanford University report on the global penetration of artificial intelligence in 2012-2018, the number of conferences and training on artificial intelligence in the United States has increased 20 times (AI Index 2018 Report, 2018).
It knows the increasing demand for artificial intelligence technologies in today's modern world. It is not news that this kind of tool is quickly integrated into such a profession as journalism. Looking from a different perspective, the usage of algorithms in a journalist's work not only leads to various professional changes but also raises ethical questions.
As journalism is the primary channel that provides public interest information, it is essential to understand how artificial intelligence tools transform searching, processing, and distributing media content. This article will have a deep dive into the concept of artificial intelligence and its influence on the journalism profession.
The role of AI in a journalist's profession
The journey of artificial intelligence integration into the journalism profession did not happen over the night. The penetration of artificial intelligence technologies can be explained by the various concepts that describe its application of digital technologies in journalism. These concepts also reflect a variety of stages of digitization of journalism.
Starting with computational & digital journalism that can be described as a field of journalism based on the use of computer technology & the internet in gathering information, creating and publishing content, and providing various reports.
Also, the development of technologies & innovations led to automated tools in journalism that do not require any human intervention. Later in years, those technologies have been updated with algorithms & robotics that help gather & analyze enormous data, create and publish media content independently.
According to Marconi (2020), artificial intelligence tools automate various journalistic projects that require multiple people to do it.
It can conclude that computational, digital, and AI-based systems can significantly complement and transform journalism professionals' functions such as searching, creating, editing, and disseminating media information. Unlike computational & digital journalism, the fields of automated journalism carry out journalistic processes without human intervention.
Image author: Bernard Hermant
How the AI application can affect competencies of journalists?
The growing use of artificial intelligence technologies in journalism can replace journalists' competencies in information gathering and content creation (Helberger, Eskens, Drunen, Bastian, Moeller, 2019). Nowadays, the news industry can be genuinely called speed-driven. Since artificial intelligence tools can quickly collect & analyze enormous data, algorithm-based technologies become more & more relevant in today's newsrooms. For the mentioned reasons, artificial intelligence tools can partly or wholly replace some work processes of journalists.
The rapid spread of fake news in the media encourages journalists to acquire new abilities to identify misinformation in media content. So, we can say that artificial intelligence tools can also lead to the emergence of new competencies in journalism, such as recognizing fake news (Figueira and Oliveira, 2017).
Moreover, artificial intelligence tools barely affect the competencies of journalists such as creativity, the ability to work in a team, and solving problems related to media content (Salami, 2018).
For this reason, artificial intelligence technologies have the most limited impact on the personal and interpersonal competencies of journalists, which entirely depend on human characteristics.
Image author: CoWomen
AI brings the question of a journalist's values & norms of behavior
Artificial intelligence tools can rely on untested sources of information and encourage the emergence of false news. Salami (2018) claims that artificial intelligence technologies lack the human abilities needed to solve problems they have not encountered before, for example, to separate bias in information, ensure the reliability of sources, avoid disclosure of private information, etc. Artificial intelligence can affect such values and norms of journalists as transparency, impartiality, accuracy, and freedom of expression.
The performance of artificial intelligence often depends on the values of the person who created the algorithm. The developers of algorithms must take all necessary measures to ensure accurate & objective media content and protect journalists' freedom of expression. According to Montal & Reich (2016), one way to ensure these conditions is to create a code of ethics for algorithm developers.
Also, the ethical application of artificial intelligence can be ensured by the code of ethics for programmers who develop journalism algorithms. Even though the mentioned ethical issue was discussed in the European Parliament in 2017, it still is a question of when the world sees the code of ethics for programmers.
Image author: Joel de Vriend
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Written by Kristina Kirkliauskaite
This article was updated on February 6, 2021.