AI invades the newsroom

They say you can’t teach an old newspaper new tricks, but The Grey Lady wants to get with the times and dabble in AI. 

What happened: The New York Times hired an editorial director of AI initiatives to chart a path forward for using AI in its newsrooms as more media companies experiment with the technology — a slight change in pace given its approach to AI has been cautious so far. 

Big picture: The use of AI by news outlets has been well documented this year — including Buzzfeed, MSN, and Sports Illustrated — and usually not for a good reason. Results have been articles plagued with plagiarism, factual inaccuracies, and just plain old poor writing.  

  • Websites like CNET and have caught serious flack for using AI bots to write articles that had serious errors or ripped off already published articles online.

  • Regional U.S. newspaper giant Gannett even ended a pilot where AI covered high school sports after its bot wrote what was maybe the worst sports journalism ever

Why it matters: While the NYT affirmed that its news will always be reported, written, and edited by humans, the hire is a firm recognition of AI’s place in the newsroom. If, arguably, the world’s most influential newspaper gives AI the OK, other newsrooms are sure to follow.

  • Meanwhile, some publishers are ready to go all in on AI. Germany’s Axel Springer will shut down its news outlet Upday to create an AI-powered "trend news generator.

Big picture: AI will be a big concern for journalists looking to protect their livelihoods come contract negotiation time. Unions repping writers at The AP, The Wall Street Journal, and The LA Times have already proposed contract updates that directly address AI.—QH