While whistling to myself the melody to “What shall we do with the drunken sailor?” I’m trying to figure out what we should do with generative AI in our newsrooms.
One thing that strikes me is most media organisations are setting up AI policies and regulating the use of AI-driven technology. They are also finding ways to use AI to speed up research of huge amounts of text, and they’re looking for other ways to become more effective.
That’s important, of course. But it’s just as important to focus on the creative process of finding ways to use generative AI daily in storytelling and journalism. And, we need to find ways to unleash the creativity — and have fun.
AFTONBLADET: ”What did you say Vasa? National Day-chance: ask your question to Gustav Vasa. The King answers — from the (AI)other side.”
The push notification pings in on my phone just before lunch on the Swedish national day. The message sent from the country’s largest newspaper Aftonbladet was much wittier in Swedish, but I think you get the point anyway.
The Schibsted-owned tabloid has a reputation of leading the way in digital and has defended its position as the most-read Swedish digital newspaper for many years. When it comes to AI, it is also on the frontline in Sweden. For instance, it is testing generative AI for writing summaries on news articles.
The experimental article that the push notification brought me to emanated from the fact that it was 500 years since Gustav Vasa became king in Sweden. According to an interview in the Swedish media news outlet Dagens Media, the newsroom at Aftonbladet used GPT-4 and fed it with all possible information about the king.
It was also programmed to answer like a king in an older Swedish language. Readers could ask their questions in a chat, and the reporter used GPT-4 to respond, but with the reporter overseeing everything to ensure correctness.
I think this fun example says something about how to embrace AI right now.
As with all new knowledge or technology, media can take advantage of the situation. In addition to reporting on facts, progress, and problems with this, it can also enlighten readers on the possibilities. It can also be a bridge and make using the new technology easier for people, giving them a chance to try it.
Even though lots of people are currently talking about AI, ChatGPT, and Dall-E, not that many people actually take time to create an account and start testing by themselves. But we can make the technology more accessible by integrating generative AI in our news reporting.
And this is where creativity comes in. Your newsroom needs to find the role AI could play in creating value in a helpful way for the readers.
One example that comes to my mind when I start thinking on this (perhaps connected to the drunken sailor I mentioned) is the following: In Sweden, midsummer is a true festivity. One midsummer tradition is eating herring (sill), drinking snaps, and singing traditional or new written snaps-songs with smart texts in rhyme.
What if the newsroom could use generative AI and all of a sudden solve a problem: “We help you write the most fun snaps song for midsummer — choose your words and get a whole song for free.”
At NTM, we tried exactly this for midsummer. But the combination of using a small language like Swedish, the need to end certain lines with rhymes, and also writing it to an existing Swedish melody was too much — even for one of the most powerful and promising inventions of this time.
This kind of thinking is perhaps not the most obvious or traditional job for a reporter. But creativity and experimentation are a must if you want to embrace development like AI — in addition to the more serious and efficiency increasing developments, of course.
And hey, wouldn’t it be more fun for your reporters to go to work if this was the kind of stuff they were thinking of?