The future of journalism post-COVID19: technology, diversity and collaboration



What is the future of news after Covid-19? How will new technologies such as AI change our journalism? How will forces for social change such as BLM impact on that process?

Polis director Charlie Beckett argues that these are all related trends in this article based on the evidence he gave recently to a UK parliamentary inquiry into the future of journalism.

Last year, Polis conducted a global survey of what newsrooms around the world were doing with AI and machine learning technologies and we are now working with a network of 1000+ digital news media people on creating training and innovation projects. So we are in a great position to see how Covid-19 is impacting on technology-driven innovation. The journalists we talk to are even more enthusiastic about finding out about AI because they can see that it can help cope with the business and editorial challenges they face.

Covid-19 is a human story about health, economics and social justice but it’s also a massive data story. AI helps to gather, analyse and present that data in useful, relevant ways that audiences can connect to more easily. It also offers much greater efficiency and effectiveness for newsrooms as a whole and support for individual journalists to do their research and content creation.

But, of course, journalists also tell us that resources are being hit hard, which limits the ability for individual news organisations to develop new tools or create new systems. AI can be complex and you need specialist skills to train data or to use the algorithms well. A lot of projects are being put on hold or even cancelled. That’s why news organisations seem so keen to get involved in collaborative work so they can learn best practice from other experts or practitioners. The post-Covid-19 media world – like the rest of society – is going to be more data-driven, more algorithmically-powered. So it’s vital for journalists to get across these trends. But they can’t do it alone anymore. They need support to protect journalism values and to innovate.

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