New Skills for the Next Generation of Journalists


Revolutionizing Journalism: The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on the Future of News (Report on the last multiplier event)

New Skills and the Challenges for Teaching the Next Generation of Journalists were under discussion at ISCTE-IUL, Lisbon, on 30th of March. The debate took place as part of the final multiplier event of the NEWSREEL2 project.

The NEWSREEL project was born from the need to produce quality contents and training solutions for innovative areas in journalism, and until now it has produced free access to online courses in these areas. The B104 Auditorium of ISCTE – University Institute of Lisbon was the stage for the last multiplier event of this project, and AI and journalism were at the center of the discussion.

The event opened with a presentation of the project by Annamaria Torbó, from the University of Pécs, Hungary, that coordinates the project. Annamaria Torbó talked about the essential skills for future journalists and how they should be taught. She also presented the results of the NEWSREEL2 project.

At this stage, the project already produced a report about the nine professional fields chosen to be worked upon: Storytelling in social media; Graphic journalism; Improving democratic sensibility; Covering migration; Foreign coverage; Journalism for voice-activated assistants and devices; AI and journalism, robot journalism and algorithms; Verifying and analyzing fake news; and Debunking disinformation. For each of these areas it was designed a course and its syllabus. E-learning courses were also produced for each professional fields. The eLearnings for the NEWSREEL2 project are in the pilot phase, but they can be consulted and experienced through the eLearning platform that can be accessed on the project’s website.

Last year a 5-day summer school was held with an intensive program for media and journalism students, where the goal was to encourage media professionals to contribute to the industry to make it diverse, equitable, authentic and fun.

To this end, nine "teaching guides" were created to back-up teachers and trainers who would like to use the courses syllabi and content in their classes and training.

Nine fields and their contents

The presentation that followed was led by Raluca Radu and Antonia Matei from the University of Bucharest in Romania. Their presentation was about “Verification and Debunking in a Crisis Situation”, and they focused on fake news and misinformation.  When commenting on fake news, they used the expression "disinformation tsunami," to describe the times we live in the digital age.

Antonia Matei and Raluca Radu also added that "people are not trusting journalists or the media, and we have to change that." They also talked about the importance of looking for the source of the content to understand if it is trustworthy and true.

The "Debunking disinformation" course aims to help students get a solid knowledge about the mechanisms used in order to alert people about disinformation in an effective way. "The need to combat disinformation is high, but resistance is sometimes even higher," they said.

The third presentation of the day was themed "Improving democratic sensibility in a fragmented media environment." The speaker was Klara Smejkal from Masaryk University in the Czech Republic. The question arose as to how the media can be a watchdog for democracy if it is still owned by millionaires.

The aim of the course is to discuss three key points: The role of the media in a democratic society; the power of the media in a democratic society; and media accountability in democratic societies.

Rita Glózer from the University of Pécs, in Hungary, spoke about curriculum development and pilot teaching experiences on storytelling in the media. In the course they presented, they pointed out that the acquisition of skills for social media journalism is not yet included in educational journalism.

They started by identifying and analyzing the most relevant trends about social media journalism and then applied the results of that analysis. They decided to focus on Instagram because video storytelling is popular on this social media.

The fifth presentation focused on the topic "Teaching foreign coverage: Focusing on challenges and innovations in the field". Dominik Speck from the Erich Brost Institute for International Journalism, in Germany, came to speak on this topic.

The researcher referred that the course is important because "the topic is a classic and always arouses students' interest".

Ana Pinto-Martinho and Miguel Crespo, from Iscte – University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal, talked about "Algorithms, Robotic Journalism and Artificial Intelligence". For them, it was important to explain the need to study this topic. "Artificial intelligence is in the trends and there are still not many programs that insert automation and AI in the curriculum," they mentioned.

"Artificial Intelligence and Journalism: Threats and Opportunities”

The afternoon began with a presentation by journalist and researcher at the Reuters Institute at Oxford University, Nic Newman, addressing the topic "Artificial Intelligence and Journalism: Threats and Opportunities".

Newman affirmed that journalism has already gone through several disruptions and that the arrival of artificial intelligence is just one more.

For Newman, in recent years media companies are using this technology in five different branches: Automatic recommendations; Commercial uses; Newsroom automation; News gathering; and Robotic journalism.

Some of uses of these systems by journalists rely on  things like an automated homepage base optimized to generate the most clicks and visibility, language translation, and Speech to text (AI transcription). Newman mentioned that the use of these AI tools should make us think about copyright issues. Do these systems have rights to them? There are also questions of transparency. What is produced by us? What is produced by AI?

With the arrival of these tools also come risks, such as the creation and spread of misinformation, the threat of digital illiteracy, and the fact that there is currently no regulation of AI.

The researcher stressed that it is important for society to realize that these AI tools are also making mistakes, and gives as an example ChatGPT, which is programmed to always answer the questions it is asked, even if it means giving wrong answers.

Newman closed this panel by pointing out that at the same time, these AI tools allow us to focus on the tasks that cannot be automated, such as human interaction and reporting. He points out that by using these systems, our work becomes more efficient and our production, editing, and content creation becomes more relevant and more accessible to our audience.

Time optimization and generalized laziness

At 3:45pm the panel discussion on "Artificial Intelligence and Journalism: practices and challenges" took place with Alexandra Luís, journalist from Lusa news agency, Rui Barros, journalist from Público newspaper, and João Tomé, data analyst from CloudFlare. The panel was moderated by Miguel Crespo, journalist and professor at ISCTE.

The participants approached the use of artificial intelligence in the media, from transcription and subtitling programs to the use of artificial intelligence to catalog 15 thousand contracts. All agreed that artificial intelligence tools are an aid to journalism, but Rui Barros warns that it can have the generalized laziness effect in performing tasks and learning, due to the ease in which answers are given by AI.

In addition, all speakers emphasized the importance of verifying information and maintaining journalism's reputation as a reliable source of information.

The panel also discussed the threat of clickbait and short-form news to critical thinking. In general, the participants agreed that AI can help journalism be more efficient and provide more accurate information, but journalistic rigor and ethics must be maintained to keep the medium's reputation.

The event didn't end without Ana Pinto-Martinho, from ISCTE, presenting a brief summary of the contents covered in the project and thanking the audience for their presence and involvement in the project.

If you want to know more about the NEWSREEL2 project and the event, click on the link below:
Post Graduate Journalism Course Tiktok:

The article was written by Ana Rita Cunha, Carolina Piedade, Carolina Neves Carvalho, Francisca Gonçalves, Mateus Lino – Students from the Post-Graduation Journalism Course of ISCTE - University Institute of Lisbon.