AI can play a role in creating an attractive media workplace

By Cecilia Campbell

United Robots

Malmö, Sweden


From my perspective, 2022 this was the year AI and automation in the newsroom became a mainstream topic for local media.

It also shifted from buzz to practicality — and it’s not difficult to see why. While national or international news brands may have the bandwidth to start using new tech just for the sake of trying out the latest thing, it’s all about solving actual problems for local media.

Newsrooms using Artificial Intelligence create an environment where journalists can work on deeper, more research-intensive features.
Newsrooms using Artificial Intelligence create an environment where journalists can work on deeper, more research-intensive features.

In a recent audit of 75 of its members, LION (Local Independent Online News) Publishers found that one of the challenges they face is “adding more editorial content without the operational infrastructure to support it, which leads to feeling even more under-resourced.”

At United Robots, we see that this challenge is the driver behind most of the discussions we have with local publishers around content automation. It can help free up journalists’ time as well as produce volumes of community content.

However, I believe there’s another reason local newsrooms will increasingly adopt AI. It’s about the kind of journalistic work environment you create by doing so.

A newly published academic article flips the old popular premise of robots stealing journalists’ jobs on its head. It argues that, at a time when attracting talent presents a challenge, AI can actually help local newsrooms in a couple of ways.

As mentioned, automation can take care of routine reporting, and AI can support many newsroom tasks like surfacing stories, fact checking, and transcription. Secondly, and importantly, the article suggests a newsroom that strives to be at the cutting edge of tech is a more attractive workplace.

Alexandra Borchardt, prominent journalist, professor, author, and media consultant, has long (well, in AI terms at least) argued from the robots’ corner as far as newsrooms go. She recently published the peer-reviewed article commentary “Go, Robots, Go! the Value and Challenges of Artificial Intelligence for Local Journalism” in Digital Journalism, “the premier outlet for advancing international research into digital journalism studies.” In the articles, she makes the post-pandemic case for AI and automation in the newsroom, providing great advice on the key aspects to get right.

From my point of view, Borchardt’s take on the part AI and automation now play in attracting talent in local newsrooms seems particularly relevant.

She points out that for small newsrooms, in particular, it’s a challenge to attract journalists who are highly skilled in both digital and journalism. With robots working alongside reporters, newsrooms like those of NTM and Gota Media can produce the bulk of their hyper-local stories about house sales, sports, business, and traffic using AI, as well as the bigger in-depth stories. This, in turn, means the local publisher can thrive in digital, thereby attracting the right journalistic talent.

In the article, Borchardt also emphasises that with journalism being a business of trust and accuracy, ethical oversight of any AI or automation processes in the newsroom is absolutely key: “This means that human editors need to make sure their products are meeting the standards audiences are entitled to demand. This is not only about language and imagery but also about news value and potential bias. Talent in journalism and technology is needed to do the job. It follows that (local) newsrooms need to present themselves as attractive employers to snatch at least some of the talent everyone is betting on.

“Maybe AI will help with this, too,” she continues. “Because being at the edge of technology will be an asset in the battle for talent, particularly if innovation is paired with ethics. If local newsrooms can state their case in both: their significance for democracy and their aptitude in technology, they will be attractive for an incoming generation that is looking for purpose as much as for income and job satisfaction.”

Looking ahead to the new year and beyond, I believe there is a strong case for local news publishers to adopt and leverage AI in order to stay relevant — for readers as well as incoming journalists.

About Cecilia Campbell

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