Embracing AI in Journalism: Insights from the Pulitzer Prize Finalists

Embracing AI in Journalism: Insights from the Pulitzer Prize Finalists

Embracing AI in Journalism: Insights from the Pulitzer Prize Finalists
Embracing AI in Journalism: Insights from the Pulitzer Prize Finalists

Five out of the 45 finalists for this year’s Pulitzer Prizes for journalism have revealed utilization of AI in various stages of their research, reporting, and storytelling processes.

 

For years, automation was perceived as a threat mostly to physical labor and operations work, not creative types, but the latest wave of AI has flipped that script. In a groundbreaking move, five out of the 45 finalists for this year’s Pulitzer Prizes for journalism have revealed their utilization of AI in various stages of their research, reporting, and storytelling processes. This disclosure was made mandatory for entrants this year, marking a significant shift in the prestigious awards’ criteria. Marjorie Miller, the administrator of the Pulitzer Prize, confirmed this new requirement, emphasizing the increasing importance of AI in the field of journalism.

 

AI too powerful to ignore

The decision to incorporate AI disclosure guidelines was prompted by the growing prominence of generative AI and machine learning technologies. According to Miller, there was a recognition within the Pulitzer Board of the need to understand both the capabilities and potential risks associated with AI tools. The board embarked on discussions about AI policies early last year, with the aim of staying abreast of technological advancements shaping the journalism landscape. The news industry is grappling with ways to best leverage artificial intelligence to improve output, while also protecting its work from being used to train AI algorithms without permission or compensation.

 

Last July, the Pulitzer Board received an enlightening crash course on AI from Mark Hansen, a Columbia Journalism School professor and director of the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation. Alongside industry experts from The Marshall Project, Newsroom Robots at Harvard Innovation Labs, and the Centre for Cooperative Media, Hansen delved into the diverse applications of AI in newsrooms. The session covered topics ranging from analyzing large datasets to developing code for web-scraping using advanced language models.

 

The Marshall Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system. We have an impact on the system through journalism, rendering it more fair, effective, transparent and humane. Harvard’s Newsroom Robots offers training and AI operations consultancy to newsrooms and produces a podcast on AI in journalism.

 

Associated Press leads the way to AI

The same month last year, Associated Press (AP) reached a two-year deal with Open AI, the parent company to ChatGPT, to share access to select news content and technology. About a decade ago, AP had begun automating corporate earnings reports before later using automation for its coverage of local sporting events. It has since expanded its use of automation in other parts of the news-gathering and production processes, including helping partner newsrooms adopt automation for coverage of local public safety incidents, and translating weather alerts into Spanish.

 

Earlier this year, AP launched an AI-enabled search tool that makes it easier for its clients, which are primarily other newsrooms, to access its vast trove of photos and videos using descriptive language, rather than traditional metadata.

 

Pulitzer Board is open to innovation

The Pulitzer Board’s approach to AI integration has been characterized by curiosity and openness to innovation. Rather than imposing restrictions on AI usage, they have embraced it as an opportunity to explore the creative possibilities that journalists can unlock with generative AI technologies. This forward-thinking mindset aligns with the broader industry trend towards leveraging AI for enhancing journalistic practices and storytelling techniques.

 

While exploring the potential applications of generative AI, the Pulitzer Board also dedicated substantial time to addressing pertinent issues such as copyright law, data privacy, and bias in machine learning models. To provide expert insights on these complex topics, Hansen enlisted the expertise of Carrie J. Cai, a staff research scientist specializing in human-computer interaction within Google’s Responsible AI division.

 

As the finalists await the announcement of the winners on May 6, 2024, the intersection of AI and journalism continues to evolve, presenting new opportunities and challenges for newsrooms worldwide. The integration of AI tools promises to revolutionize the way stories are researched, reported, and shared, paving the way for a more innovative and data-driven approach to journalism in the digital age.

 

 

[To be concluded]

 

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