As people searched for the latest information on COVID-19 last year, including school reopenings and travel restrictions, the BBC recognized they needed to find new ways of bringing their journalism to their audiences. They released a new online tool, the BBC Corona Bot, which uses artificial intelligence to draw on BBC News’ explanatory journalism. It responds with an answer to a reader’s specific question where possible, or points to health authorities’ websites when appropriate. AI technology allowed BBC News to reach new audiences and drive more traffic to their stories and explainers.
This is one example of how AI can help newsrooms. AI can help build new audiences and automate tasks, freeing up time for journalists to work on the more creative aspects of news production and leaving tedious and repetitive tasks to machines. However, newsrooms around the world have told researchers they worry that access to AI technology is unequal. They fear big publishers likely will benefit most from artificial intelligence, while smaller news organizations could get left behind.
To help bridge this gap, the Google News Initiative is partnering with Polis, the London School of Economics and Political Science’s journalism think tank, to launch a training academy for 20 media professionals to learn how AI can be used to support their journalism.
The AI Academy for Small Newsrooms is a six-week long, free online program taught by industry-leading journalists and researchers who work at the intersection of journalism and AI. It will start in September 2021 and will welcome journalists and developers from small news organizations in the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region.
By the end of the course, participants will have a practical understanding of the challenges and opportunities of AI technologies. They will learn examples of how to use AI to automate repetitive tasks, such as interview transcription or image search, as well as how to optimize newsroom processes by getting insights on what content is most engaging.
For example, other newsrooms using AI technology in the region include Schibsted, a Nordic news outlet that developed an innovative model to reduce gender bias in news coverage, while in Spain, El Pais uses an AI-based tool to moderate toxic comments.
Most importantly, participants will create action plans to guide the development of AI projects within their news organizations. JournalismAI will share these plans openly to help other publishers around the world.
This pilot program — which we plan to launch in other regions in 2022 — is part of a broader training effort over the last three years by JournalismAI, a partnership between the GNI and Polis to forester AI literacy in newsrooms globally. More than 110,000 participants have already taken the online training modules available on the Google News Initiative Training Center.
This year, JournalismAI will also create an AI Journalism Starter Pack to make the information about AI in journalism more accessible to small and local publishers. It will include examples of AI tools that can solve small and local publishers’ basic needs such as tagging or transcribing.
Find more detailed information on the AI Academy for Small Newsrooms and how to apply on the JournalismAI website. The deadline for applications is 11:59 PM GMT on August 1, 2021.