In the ever-evolving journalism landscape, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a promising ally for creativity, efficiency and storytelling. From automating mundane tasks like tax analysis to exploring vast datasets and even assisting in the pitching process, AI can boost productivity and free up precious energy to focus on core work.
“[AI] can save me time, money or effort, which could be reinvested in pre-reporting and reporting,” said Laura Oliver, a UK-based freelance journalist and co-founder of the Society of Freelance Journalists.
AI can prove to be a real game-changer especially for freelancers, according to Derek Willis, a data journalist and lecturer at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland. “It can be very useful for generating initial questions and ideas about a topic that a journalist might not be an expert on, making it easier to get up to speed and generate resources,” he said.
Some AI tools can also perform editing tasks, rewording sentences or suggesting alternatives. “[Large Language Models can] construct language that feels like it would be published in a specific news outlet – or type of one – that can help freelancers understand the kind of tone and tenor that can fit a particular outlet or assignment,” said Willis.
Barbara D’amico, a former Google News Lab Teaching fellow from Italy and journalist with extensive experience training colleagues on digital tools, notes that AI technologies have already been prevalent: “All the cloud-based tools we use to report, write, search and verify have been based on AI,” she said. But now journalists are presented with a knowledge and accessibility divide, particularly in the case of conversational search engines like Google’s Bard or ChatGPT. D’amico compared these tools to powerful Ferraris: “They have enormous potential, but this potential today is disclosed mainly to those who know how to drive a Ferrari.”
Understanding the latest practices and ethical considerations is important to ensure responsible and effective use of AI, Oliver said. She believes that personal inputs continue to be irreplaceable: “The story idea and the ‘why me’ needs to come from the journalist.”
Today, the transformative potential of AI in the media industry so far serves to complement the unique expertise that journalists bring to their work. To assist freelancers in harnessing this power, here is a list of AI tools based on experts’ recommendations:
“Translation tools, such as Google Translate and DeepL, have proved fantastically useful when researching stories,” said Oliver. Although not always accurate, in many cases AI translation can save time and effort while also helping break language barriers, access diverse perspectives, build connections and uncover stories that might otherwise remain untold in a given language.
“I’ve even conducted preliminary conversations with sources using Google Translate and its audio-to-text feature, which I believe uses machine learning and some other AI for contextualizing translations,” she added.
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