Regional UK Newspaper Surprisingly Adopting AI for Fact-Checking

Regional UK Newspaper Surprisingly Adopting AI for Fact-Checking

Worcester Journal is now integrating AI-assisted reporters into its operations. The Guardian terms it a blend of historical journalistic integrity with technology, which is a surprise considering the many reports on AI:s inaccuracies producing actual facts.

By implementing AI-assisted reporters, mundane tasks such as transcribing minutes from local council meetings can be managed by AI. The Guardian reports that this technology, based on the capabilities of ChatGPT, transforms raw data into news reports in the publisher’s style. The move aims for time efficiency and, according to the organisations involved, also ensures the accuracy of routine reporting, freeing human journalists to delve into more complex and investigative tasks.

Enhancing reporters’ roles, not replacing them

A key aspect of integrating AI into journalism, as emphasized by Stephanie Preece, editor of the Worcester News, is that it’s not about replacing human journalists but enhancing their roles. According to her, AI cannot replace the human elements of journalism—being on the ground, attending events, or conducting face-to-face interviews. Instead, it provides journalists with more time and resources to focus on these crucial aspects, thus elevating the quality of journalism.

This is in contracts to earlier reports from the same outlet, where it was said that humans are necessary to check AI:s facts.

With any technological advancement, challenges and ethical concerns are inevitable. Newsquest recognizes these concerns, especially regarding AI’s reputation for inaccuracies. To counter this, they have implemented multiple safeguards, including extensive training and a new code of conduct. The technology does not operate independently; a trained journalist inputs information into the tool, which is then edited and tweaked by a news editor if necessary.

A notable achievement in this domain was the successful use of AI to generate a freedom of information request regarding mundane council expenses. Jody Doherty-Cove, Newsquest’s head of editorial AI, envisions a future where AI’s role in journalism is as normalized as the internet is today, enhancing the scope and depth of journalistic endeavors.

AI in the newsroom

In an interview with the Press Gazette, Henry Faure Walker, CEO of Newsquest, highlighted the role of AI in modern journalism, as exemplified during a news event in Hexham Courant, Northumberland. The incident involving the felling of the Sycamore Gap tree on Hadrian’s Wall marked a crucial moment for AI-assisted reporting.

Walker detailed how the AI system took charge of routine reporting for a week, allowing journalists to focus on deep investigative work and multimedia storytelling.

Meanwhile, the integration of AI in journalism has its controversies. Major publications like The Guardian and The New York Times are taking cautious steps in this domain. The Guardian has set forth principles for using generative AI, emphasizing caution and care, while the New York Times recently initiated legal action against OpenAI and Microsoft for scraing its content.

In a related report, the Council of Europe established guidelines to govern the responsible use of AI in journalism. These guidelines are designed to ensure that AI’s integration in journalism aligns with human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. They serve as a practical tool to navigate the landscape of AI in journalism, addressing the effects of AI on audiences and society at large. The guidelines, formulated by a specialized sub-committee to bolster media resilience, were developed in tandem with the broader efforts to establish a comprehensive framework convention on AI. Time will tell who’s fact-checking who.

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