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News readers are watching — and leery of — AI use by media

By Ariane Bernard


New York, Paris


My colleague Greg Piechota, who leads the Readers First initiative at INMA, recently sent me a very interesting academic study from the University of Zurich on how Swiss news consumers approached AI in the news. 

The big takeaway is that in the same territories where publishers are warmer toward AI, the users are significantly less warm: “Just under a third (29%) of respondents say they would read news items written entirely by AI. In comparison, 84% would read texts written by journalists without the use of AI,” the study notes.

Readers feel differently about their response depending on how “serious” the topic feels: Celebrity gossip fares better than politics. 

And, the study notes, “There is broad consensus that AI-generated (87%) or AI-assisted (83%) content should be transparently declared as such by the media.”

There is likely — and the study notes this, too — something there which reflects a lot of the headlines that underscore some of the issues of generative AI and hallucinations. In this respect, as publishers are also well aware of these issues, our audiences may be anticipating problems with the assumptions that publishers are not being sufficiently careful. And pretty much every publisher I have spoken with in the past few months has no plans to let ChatGPT freelance without an editor to oversee the work.

But, and this is where, particularly as publishers continue experimenting with these technologies, we probably have to spare no expense reminding our users just how much oversight and humans-in-the-loop are involved wherever we leverage AI tools.

Users don’t feel less safe because we’ve automated much of the production chains that make their cars. In fact, this adds reliability to the production of these complicated devices. But in large part, this is also because there are a host of certifications and regulations that reassure customers automation did in fact raise the bar of quality even if fewer humans may be involved. 

There is an analogy there for publishers as they bring in additional automation to the shop: We need to remember these efforts have to come with as much reassurance to our audiences that this improves the product and be ready to prove it.

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About Ariane Bernard

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