Newsrooms embrace codes of conduct, use of AI

By Peter Bale


New Zealand and the U.K.


Welcome to the latest INMA Newsroom Initiative newsletter.

This week I’ll focus on highlights from the INMA World Congress in New York as I saw them.

The topic of generative AI dominated presentations and discussions at the congress — whether that was News Corp Chief Executive Officer Robert Thomson warning of profound risks to copyright or publishers demonstrating how they are already using AI.

From a Newsroom Initiative perspective, I was struck by the extent to which speaker after speaker, from the launch by INMA President Meribel Perez Wadsworth to the end of the event, emphasised the importance of journalism and the role of holding power to account. We rightly focus on the “business of news” at INMA, but it is clear the foundation is journalism.

I closed a three-hour Newsroom Initiative workshop on the eve of the Congress with a session in which my panel of four newsroom leaders discussed their biggest mistakes. It was inspired by an idea from Google’s Director of News Ecosystem Development Madhav Chinnappa. I was impressed at the level of honesty and modesty my guests showed.

News organisations embrace codes of conduct as well as the use of AI

Journalists are clearly embracing generative AI, and newsroom leaders are in many cases keen to explore ways to increase productivity with it. But it is equally clear editors and business leaders need to communicate guidelines on its use to staff and readers.


Mediahuis Chief Executive Officer Gert Ysebaert told a Congress session his company had published guidelines on how to work with generative AI and how to communicate that transparently to readers with a strong focus on using it to support quality journalism.

Mediahuis Chief Executive Officer Gert Ysebaert (right) at INMA's World Congress of News Media in May.
Mediahuis Chief Executive Officer Gert Ysebaert (right) at INMA's World Congress of News Media in May.

“It brings huge change,” Ysebaert said. “The way I look at it now, it will make or break the newsroom. We have to embrace it. How can we implement this very fast and do this right … mitigate risk? In the short term, (we) make a framework for our newsrooms. How can we use AI in the newsrooms in an ethical and responsible way.”

The Mediahuis guidelines were built on seven principles:

  1. Augment not replace.
  2. Transparency above all.
  3. Humans in the loop.
  4. Be fair, without biases.
  5. Prioritise privacy + security.
  6. Trust is key.
  7. AI skills training.

Financial Times

Almost as he was speaking, Financial Times Editor Roula Khalaf published her own open letter on how the FT intends to approach and embrace AI while stressing that “FT journalism in the new AI age will continue to be reported and written by humans who are the best in their fields and who are dedicated to reporting on and analysing the world as it is, accurately and fairly.”

Khalaf noted AI “has the potential to increase productivity and liberate reporters and editors’ time to focus on generating and reporting original content.”

However, she also talked of its propensity to “hallucinate” and the risks of the technology being used to spread misinformation and to erode rather than increase journalistic trust.

The FT would evaluate and adopt AI that supported its business objectives and commitments to editorial innovation but would do so transparently and carefully, she said.

“It is important and necessary for the FT to have a team in the newsroom that can experiment responsibly with AI tools to assist journalists in tasks such as mining data, analysing text, and images and translation,” she said. However, she pledged the FT wouldn’t use photorealistic imagery from AI and would alert readers when it incorporated AI into other forms of storytelling.

“The team will also consider, always with human oversight, generative AI’s summarising abilities,” she wrote.

KSTA Media 

Perhaps the most striking use case in the Congress for me was how much 400-year-old German media company KSTA Media has embraced generative AI in the newsroom and across its published products, emphasising adoption, experimentation, and transparency.

“We want to become an AI company,” KSTA Chief Executive Thomas Schultz-Homberg told the Congress. “This business is really under fire (and) one reason is AI.”

Thomas Schultz-Homberg, CEO of KSTA, speaking at the INMA World Congress of News Media.
Thomas Schultz-Homberg, CEO of KSTA, speaking at the INMA World Congress of News Media.

Media, he said, had missed earlier “trains” in technology, and he was determined to meet the challenge of AI by embracing it not resist it, saying: “Now as an old white man I don’t want to miss the last one, and I am very determined to get this train.”

KSTA was making AI a regular part of jobs in the newsroom and across the business. New topic pages were generated and assembled by natural language processing and had already improved search engine discovery. And content recommendation modules on KSTA sites had been moved to AI-driven sets after showing they performed better than those curated by editors. 

At the business end, KSTA was adopting AI-influenced dynamic paywalls and pricing models to ensure that it responded to opportunities to capture new subscribers.

Schultz-Homberg said his newsroom had been “anxious” but that after respectful talks and much testing, journalists had been ready to experiment in what he described as a balance between AI being a helper rather than a creator. But, he said, KSTA would be “bold” in adopting AI and was prepared to “learn that while practicing.”

For more on generative AI, see the INMA report News Media at the Dawn of Generative AI by my INMA Smart Data Initiative colleague Ariane Bernard. There’s also an INMA Knows section on AI, which will constantly update with what we all write about this subject. 

Axel Springer talent chief urges media to modernise to avoid irrelevance

The media industry needs to overcome its fear and embrace new technology and new ways of working if it is to compete and to stay relevant to increasingly demanding younger audiences, Axel Springer executive Niddal Salah-Eldin told the World Congress.

Niddal Salah-Eldin, president of culture and talent at Axel Springer, spoke to World Congress attendees about the changing hiring culture.
Niddal Salah-Eldin, president of culture and talent at Axel Springer, spoke to World Congress attendees about the changing hiring culture.

In a startlingly clear and simple speech, Salah-Eldin, the president of culture and talent at the big German publisher, urged media houses to become genuinely customer centric and less self-regarding and to adopt higher standards in culture and in developing products customers — especially new customers — actually wanted.

“Good enough is what got us where we are today,” she said, adding we now had to be truly excellent in the face of unprecedented disruption from technology such as generative AI but also trends in the workplace and among our customers.

“We are about to be disrupted… . This new kid on the block is set to disrupt our businesses even more,” she said. The age of cheap traffic from social media is over, and the big technology platforms would dominate the new era and write their own rule book if the media did not.

The media, she warned, was too often “too slow, too complacent, and too boring” and risked becoming irrelevant, especially to a new generation of readers and perhaps prospective younger employees who would no longer find media an enticing place to work.

“We cannot be paralysed by fear,” she said. “We can help define the future of this industry that we care about so deeply. Embrace disruption and create momentum.”

She said her mission at Axel Springer was to build the culture of a media company of the future with an emphasis on education and exchange between individuals and teams, interdisciplinary teams, optimising processes to be faster and better, and constantly exploring new products and ideas from inside and outside the company.

“We have to welcome the unfamiliar into our lives… . We have to shake hands with the future,” she said of the philosophy behind her talent search at Axel Springer and embodied in the Axel Springer FreeTech Academy, which she has championed and which trains journalists, technologists, and business people to create powerful collaborations.

“The magic happens at the intersection of journalism, business, and technology,” she said in a comment that I thought also embodied what we think at the Newsroom Initiative.

Recommended follow

Dominic Ponsford @domponsford editor-in-chief of the UK Press Gazette has a knack for big interviews with media leaders and insightful takes on journalism trends.

Talk back

Tell me what you want to read and what you like or don't like in this newsletter, please. E-mail: There’s also an INMA Newsroom Initiative Slack channel

About this newsletter

Today’s newsletter is written by Peter Bale, based in New Zealand and the U.K. and lead for the INMA Newsletter Initiative. Peter will share research, case studies, and thought leadership on the topic of global newsrooms.

This newsletter is a public face of the Newsroom Initiative by INMA, outlined here. E-mail Peter at or with thoughts, suggestions, and questions.

About Peter Bale

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