Newhouse Speaks: On Artificial Intelligence & Journalism; Consequences and Opportunities in Emerging Tech
Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of sitting in on parts of a series of panels that discussed the ramifications or implications of artificial intelligence (AI) and its advancing role in journalism, media actions and receptions, and the potential consequences of that role. The two panels that I attended were very interesting. From the Syracuse website: "Artificial intelligence is making its way from tech giants to media organizations. Magazines have launched chatbots, and daily news organizations to use AI to automate articles about corporate earnings or baseball games. These panels will explore issues this nascent technology raises in journalism."
The first of the two panels involved presentations from multiple members of the Newhouse Public Relations Department, two of whom I have worked with relatively extensively. Professors Joon Soo Lim, PhD, and Regina Luttrell, PhD. made up a part of the team that had evidently done significant and extensive research into the field of how age and other demographic variables influenced the ways in which media and news consumers responded to AI. In an extremely abbreviated presentation, it was made clear that though many of us have used or otherwise come into contact with AI, very few of us actually understood or cared to understand what the potential ramifications are. Some of the more ubiquitous avenues through which we use AI were detailed by the presenters; Smart speakers, translation apps, chat-boxes, photo classification, twitter bots, home automation, all of these served to represent an entity that is rapidly expanding its role in the modern world.
This was expanded upon by the next panel, which discussed the concepts of AI in the newsroom. The presentation had a somewhat where-we-are-now and where-we-plan-on-being dichotomy, in that the presenters each had something to say about where and how their respective organizations were currently implementing AI, and where they each hoped to be in the future. This panel was made up of representatives from Bloomberg, AP and The Intercept, and links to their respective pages and profiles can be found here. What struck me most about their presentation (I lost the notepad on which I recorded who said what) was the fact that AI systems already had such a massive role in the functions of the news media. In the newsroom, there are AI-based systems that are doing everything from continually scanning the web for new stories or noteworthy events, transcribing video news broadcasts or segments, or regulating comment sections for online news organizations. Each of these responsibilities (and I'm sure many more) have been largely delegated to automated, AI-based systems. To that same end, as the world becomes ever more interconnected, each of the three represented organizations said that they will likely be looking to expand the role of AI in their day-to-day functions.
As a future/current public relations professional, there are a number of things that sprang to mind during the lecture. My first thought, and one that has largely stuck with me since is that the field is changing. Social media, news distribution and advertising have, until the advent of AI, really played on the same field. Humans were responsible for planning, coordinating and executing an action in the hopes of achieving some sort of objective. AI is going to make it a lot easier for organizations to streamline the planning and coordination phases, and will likely cut down on the labor necessary for execution as well. In our classwork, for instance, if we had some sort of AI-system in place, analyzing the shortcomings and successes of our Meltwater simulations, then our work would have been made much easier, because we could identify and address weak-points, solidify our strong-points and generally increase the ROI of our paid advertising. I can only imagine what the continued implementation of AI will do to the communications field, moving forward. One can only hope that the marketplace, our legal systems, regulatory bodies and other entities that make up our society can adapt fast enough.
This blog was originally created for coursework while at the Newhouse School. But this blog quickly became something more, as it gave me a platform, however small, on which to share my thoughts. So feel free to read through these posts, and if you like what you read, please share. Enjoy.