Survey: Local TV Managers Support Using AI In Newsgathering

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NEW YORK—The Associated Press has released a wide-ranging report on local news outlets’ understanding and use of artificial intelligence and their readiness to use AI to meet their journalism and business needs.

The report is based on survey results from nearly 200 newsrooms across all 50 states and more than two dozen in-depth interviews with local news leaders. Print, radio, television and digital outlets are represented, as well as commercial and nonprofit operations.

“With this report, AP aims to raise awareness and also begin to level the AI playing field for local newsrooms,” said Jim Kennedy, AP senior vice president of strategic planning. “The goal is to help them harness innovative technology to improve their operations.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • There is a significant gap between large and small news organizations in terms of how widely AI and automation technologies are used.
  • Despite some concerns about handing off human work to machines, there is nevertheless strong support among local newsrooms for automating tasks that could free journalists for deeper reporting, streamline production or enhance content monetization.
  • While interest is high, AI technologies are not in wide use at the local level because many news outlets lack the resources or time required to experiment.

Although the report found that usage of AI in local newsrooms had not been widely adopted and was still in the early stages of development, the report also found that TV managers tended to be more interested in the use of AI. 

TV managers, for example, gave higher scores than radio or digital managers when asked if their newsroom regularly used AI in newsgathering and when asked if they had a few people who’ve tried using AI technologies in newsgathering. 

TV managers  were also more likely than other local media to agree when asked if they regularly use AI in production operations. 

Despite the low current usage, print, radio and TV leaders all expressed solid backing for using AI to simplify production operations, with support highest among digital newsrooms.

Managers, however, tended to be more supportive than journalists. 

Using AI for transcription was the most requested automation wish, the report found. 

At KSAT-TV in Texas, news director Bernice Kearney called the transcription tool Trint “a game-changer,” especially during the pandemic when most civic meetings have been recorded, the report stated. 

It also noted that Oregon Public Broadcasting had been using transcription and it quoted chief content officer Morgan Holm saying that transcription allowed the newsroom to put more resources “into the human part of newsgathering.”

The use of AI to monitor social media and to speed up the delivery of content to multiple platforms were also mentioned as potentially important use cases. 

In addition to unveiling the report, AP also announced that it will offer a free online curriculum beginning next month, open to all U.S. news outlets on the subject. It will feature live, virtual workshops and recorded tutorials. International news outlets will have access to all recorded sessions.

“We will be digging into a range of technologies and focusing on the pain points that AI and automation can help to alleviate at the local level,” said Aimee Rinehart, program manager of AP’s local news AI initiative.

Both the report and online curriculum are part of a two-year project funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to help local newsrooms expand the use of AI. The full report can be found here

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.