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The Audience’s Perspective on AI in Journalism 

1 July 2024
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Much of the conversation about integrating AI into journalism has predominantly been from the perspective of newsrooms.  

We’ve certainly discussed this perspective, whether it be on how publishers can use AI in their newsrooms, how they’re regulating its usage, or how they make (or not) deals with AI companies.  

However, the perspective that often goes underrepresented is that of the audience—the ultimate consumer of news products. Recent studies, including a comprehensive survey by the BBC and Ipsos, have started to shed light on audience perspectives regarding AI in journalism. We’ll use their top three insights as themes to explore the topic of audience expectations and apprehensions on AI in journalism. 

“What benefit does this bring to me?” 

The first takeaway from the BBC study is that audiences want to understand better the value AI can bring to their news consumption experience.  

It is not difficult to imagine how AI could achieve this: AI’s ability to analyze and process vast datasets can be leveraged to deliver instant audio summaries in multiple languages, personalized news feeds based on individual preferences, and improved accessibility features like automated subtitling for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. These enhancements are not just about convenience; they are about creating a more inclusive media environment that can effectively serve diverse audience needs. 

However, the deployment of AI in media comes with a caveat: the technology must demonstrate clear benefits to the audience. The scepticism surrounding AI often stems from concerns about data privacy, misinformation, and the loss of human touch in storytelling. For AI to be truly embraced by the public, these concerns need to be addressed through transparent practices and clear demonstrations of AI’s value addition to the news consumption process. This is where the second takeaway of the report comes in.  

“Show me the human behind the story.” 

Despite the advancements in AI, the element of trust remains pivotal. Audiences seek reassurance that the human elements of journalism—editorial oversight, ethical reporting, and context—remain intact.  

This perspective is supported by a YouGov poll conducted in the UK, where only a small percentage (6%) of respondents felt that the benefits of AI in media outweigh its risks (see graph). Interestingly, this scepticism varies by demographic, with younger audiences showing more openness to AI integration in media. In any case, there is clear education to do on the benefits of AI in the newsroom with audiences.  

Trust remains highest among audiences when articles are entirely written and edited by a human journalist and falls significantly when either an AI writer or editor is introduced into the process (see graph). This confirms the importance of reassuring audiences where and when AI is used and how much human oversight is given. 

 

“Tell me when and how you use AI.” 

Transparency in how AI is used in journalism is critical for maintaining and building trust. Audiences today expect not just quality content but also clarity on how that content is produced.  

Of course, not every case of AI needs to be disclosed. For instance, Charlie Beckett (LSE professor) stated in the Eurovision News Trusted Journalism in the Age of AI report that “I think editors are a bit too worried about that. Today it doesn’t read under texts: ‘Some of the information came from news agencies’ or ‘The intern helped with the research.’ Newsrooms should confidently use transparency notices to show consumers that they want to give them added value.” 

The Reuters Institute highlights cases where audiences believe it is important to label AI-generated content (see graph). This transparency helps set the right expectations and builds audience trust in AI-enhanced news products. 

When AI labels are used, the BBC study finds that: “While many of our participants trust media organizations to oversee and moderate Gen AI media for them, at these early stages, it still feels important that they can judge the quality and impact of Gen AI media themselves.” Indeed, they want to be able to access information on the provenance (what sources/tools were used), the principles (what the organization’s guidelines on AI are), and AI’s purpose (why it was used in this instance).  

Conclusion: Navigating the Future with AI in Journalism 

As AI continues to permeate various facets of journalism, the focus must be on technological adoption and aligning these advancements with audience expectations and ethical standards. The successful integration of AI in journalism will depend on how well news organizations can communicate the benefits, manage the risks, and maintain the trust of their audience. By prioritizing transparency, enhancing the value offered to consumers, and preserving the human element in news reporting, media organizations can leverage AI as a technological tool and as a catalyst for enriching the news experience for all. 

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