This year of elections paired with AI creates an opportunity, responsibility for media

By Fraser Harding

FT Strategies

London, United Kingdom


This will be a significant year for both democracy and disruptive technology, meaning it will inevitably be yet another decisive year for news outlets, too.

Elections taking place in some of the world’s most populous and powerful countries provide both an opportunity and a responsibility for news outlets.

These elections are taking place against a backdrop of heightened geopolitical tension and electoral landscapes featuring controversial political protagonists, as well as the rising influence of generative AI.

As this pivotal year of elections takes off, news media must tread mindfully.
As this pivotal year of elections takes off, news media must tread mindfully.

The role GenAI will play

Generative AI has worrying implications for the spread of disinformation. Authentic-looking content can be produced rapidly and at scale. Deepfakes are realistic enough to be mistaken for the truth.

Recent elections provided an initial indication of how susceptible voters can be.

Last year, a fake recording of Slovakian opposition candidate Michal Šimečka went viral on social media. The video depicted Šimečka plotting to buy votes. Since it was shared thousands of times, it became difficult for Šimečka’s campaign and the media to debunk it as fake. Even when misinformation is revealed as such, false narratives cast doubt in readers’ minds as to what is true and what is not.

A challenging backdrop is nothing new for news providers

The media continually finds itself in varying states of crisis as new technologies emerge. But each crisis also presents news providers with an opportunity to remind audiences of the value of trusted media.

One way news providers can continue to stay relevant is to provide meaningful, engaging journalism in formats which cater to reader preferences.

Newsrooms are introducing new formats such as the introduction of easily digestible audio and short-form video packaged as “explanatory journalism.” This feels particularly well-suited to election coverage to help audiences understand what can be complicated political processes.

Beyond content, news providers must consider how the brand’s reputation is marketed to readers as a point of differentiation.

In an election context, it becomes important to reassure readers about the integrity of the information they are consuming and the journalistic process used. The Financial Times has transparently communicated with readers about the use of AI in the newsroom and emphasised the importance of human-led reporting.

News providers must openly communicate with audiences AI use

 Financial Times Editor Roula Khalaf shared an open letter on the role of generative AI in the FT newsroom, which has become a reference for many other news outlets.

Though AI poses additional challenges for news providers, it can also help drive efficiency by supporting business operations and the production of quality journalism during a demanding year.

News outlets are increasingly adopting both off-the-shelf and in-house AI models to support the newsroom throughout its election coverage. For example, AI tools can be adopted to support data extraction and analysis from large data sets to improve the efficiency and accuracy of reporting.

Another example is comment moderation — a laborious but necessary task

Political coverage is likely to generate lively debate which may breach website guidelines. AI tools, such as Utopia, can be used to filter these comments out, saving moderators time and improving user experience.

AI introduces a unique set of challenges for news providers in this important year for democracy. But, it can also further enhance the relevance and authority of news providers amongst audiences. AI can support the production and delivery of quality journalism, which will shape the discourse around the most significant stories impacting democracy this year.

About Fraser Harding

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