Is The Public Ready For AI In The Newsroom?

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Last week, I shared a recent Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism study of how the public would prefer the use of AI in the newsroom.

And while that study found a general wariness amongst the thousands surveyed in six different countries, with “somewhat more comfort” towards AI work with human oversight on softer news topics, newer RISJ numbers from almost 100,000 people in 47 countries elaborate on those preferences and paint a slightly more skeptical picture overall.

“As publishers rapidly adopt AI, to make their businesses more efficient and to personalize content, our research suggests they need to proceed with caution, as the public generally wants humans in the driving seat at all times,” writes Nic Newman in the 2024 Digital News Report overview.

Just more than a third (36%) of all respondents feel comfortable with news made by humans with AI help, and only 19% feel comfortable with news made mostly by AI with human oversight. In the United States, those numbers were 42% and 23%, respectively, with more than half of Americans (52%) not comfortable with AI work overseen by humans.


(Source: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism)

Dr. Amy Ross Arguedas says the research found people more comfortable with “behind-the-scenes applications” that helped efficiency and weren’t “directly visible to audiences.” Of the discomfort and suspicion that more than half had of AI’s work, Newman called it “surprising,” adding “people broadly had fears about what might happen to content reliability and trust.”

But the research shouldn’t be seen as entirely distressing to publishers, the news-consuming public, or the AI optimists. If there’s any comfort to be found in the research, I believe it’s in the outlook of those who’ve experienced the technology and have seen the benefits it provides publishing professionals and their public-facing work.

“We … find that people with greater AI awareness tend to feel relatively more comfortable with the use of AI in journalism,” writes Dr. Ross Arguedas. “While still very low, comfort using news made mostly by AI is twice as high among those who have seen or heard more about AI (26%) relative to those who have seen less (13%). We see a similar gap when asking about comfort using news produced mostly by a human journalist with some help from AI (45% versus 30%).”

Maybe AI is the ultimate IYKYK.

From all indications, there’s more and more of us In The Know with each passing day.


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