Microsoft announced several new collaborations on Monday (Feb. 5) aimed at helping news organizations adopt artificial intelligence (AI) tools and techniques.
The initiatives are part of Microsoft’s broader efforts to ensure journalism can innovate to serve the public interest during a critical election year.
Through these new programs, Microsoft will provide AI training, resources, and technology access to partnering news outlets and journalism schools. The goal is to demonstrate how AI can make news gathering more efficient and sustainable while upholding ethical standards.
“Our goal is to support thriving, sustainable newsrooms with the technology they need to perform the essential function of informing the world,” Noreen Gillespie, Journalism Director of Microsoft wrote on the Reporting The World blog said.
The collaborating organizations include The GroundTruth Project, Semafor, the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, the Online News Association (ONA), and the AI startup Nota.
GroundTruth will add an AI track for its corps of local reporters. Semafor will use Microsoft tools to help journalists discover diverse sources and perspectives. The CUNY journalism school will offer a tuition-free AI training program for working journalists. ONA will host events and training sessions to scale AI best practices. Nota, which is already partnering with over 100 newsrooms on AI, plans to release a new tool to optimize content.
All partners have committed to sharing their findings across the media industry. The projects build on Microsoft’s Democracy Forward initiative launched last year to help journalism counter information threats.
Central to these efforts is ensuring human journalists remain at the core of newsrooms. “Healthy news organizations do not exist without journalists who know their communities and topics,” Gillespie affirmed.
By demonstrating AI’s potential while mitigating risks, Microsoft hopes to shed positive light on how emerging technologies can sustain quality journalism despite economic headwinds. With billions voting in elections worldwide this year, the company sees reliable, ethical journalism as critical for healthy democracies.
“The survival of fact-based news is inextricably linked to healthy democracies, thriving communities, and civic participation,” Gillespie concluded.
AI disruption in journalism
The news industry is no stranger to disruption. It has been hit hard by the switch to online media consumption and the corresponding decline in print revenue. Then there have been major issues with Google and Facebook gobbling up the lion’s share of ad revenue and finally, with it easier than ever to set up a news website, small, insurgent, independent publications have sprung up.
AI poses a new challenge. While AI tools hold promise to improve efficiency in newsrooms, there are also significant downsides to relying too heavily on automated technologies for news gathering and production. It also poses concerning risks regarding loss of quality, diversity, jobs and trust.
Clearly, it’s a technology that cannot be ignored and must be tackled head-on. The benefits could outweigh the negatives, but only if managed carefully and consciously.