NCTJ hosts Artificial Intelligence in Journalism event

How artificial intelligence could impact journalists and the media industry was discussed in depth at an NCTJ event today at Thomson Reuters.

How artificial intelligence could impact journalists and the media industry was discussed in depth at an NCTJ event today.

Around 150 journalists, trainers and students attended the Artificial Intelligence in Journalism event today, which took place at Thomson Reuters in London’s Canary Wharf.

Opening the event, NCTJ chief executive Joanne Forbes said: “Our aim is to raise awareness of AI and journalism, to consider how the technology is impacting on skills and to help us prioritise the issues we need to address and how we can support innovation and positive change.”

The event kicked off with a Q&A session by Vanessa Baffoe, Sky News presenter, with Jane Barrett, global editor for media news strategy at Thomson Reuters.

She said: “AI will affect every profession as a whole…it is foolish to think we will be exempt.”

Left to right: Vanessa Baffoe and Jane Barrett. Photo: Josh Caius

The process starts by “getting your hands dirty” with the new tools available, she said, but warned: “Experiment, but experiment responsibly. Play, but play safely.”

Jody Doherty-Cove, head of editorial AI at Newsquest, then gave a practical demonstration of the AI tools its newsrooms are trialling.

This included guiding the audience through creating an AI agent which could draft FOI requests to local councils.

Then, a panel chaired by Joanna Webster, interim managing editor for video and photography at Thomson Reuters, discussed the impact of AI on journalism and journalism training.

She was joined by Nadine Forshaw, assistant head of audience at The Sun; Gavin Allen, digital journalism lecturer at Cardiff University; and Manjiri Carey, news editor at BBC News Labs.

In a discussion about the core skills journalism students need to learn, Gavin warned that newsrooms “not knowing what they want at the moment” can make training “difficult”.

Nadine said: “You always need a human between the AI and audience.

“It’s not just an auto-publishing mess, it’s a helpful tool that will make your job easier and improve output for your audience.”

This was followed by a keynote talk by Vincent Ryan, EMEA partnerships manager at Google News Lab. He spoke about the development of Google’s JournalismAI initiative since 2018.

NCTJ patron Alex Crawford was scheduled to give a special address on the NCTJ’s values of quality, trust and diversity to wrap up the event, but was unable to attend.

Instead, she filmed a short video which was shown to the audience.

The NCTJ’s Artificial Intelligence in Journalism event. Photo: Josh Caius

She said she wanted to talk about “how important journalism is, how important good journalism is and how as an industry we are not valuing our craft, our skills, our experience enough as we are fighting this very serious and dangerous battle against misinformation and disinformation”.

The event ended with Christmas drinks hosted by the NCTJ.

The NCTJ’s Journalism Skills Academy has launched an e-learning course on AI to support journalists, A Journalist’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence.

It has been created to appeal to a wide range of journalists, editors and content creators from all backgrounds, with different experiences and disciplines.

Find out more here.

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