Artificial intelligence has the potential to be the most transformative tool in the history of journalism, reshaping the way newsrooms — and their products — work. However, the future of journalism does not depend on technology itself but on efficient tools that facilitate editorial workflows – and some newsrooms have proven that they know how to do it right.
"Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat," is a well-known quote from Steve Jobs. I believe many change managers in newsrooms resonate with this idea. The past year has brought a wealth of innovation we have not seen in the media world since the first papers went digital.
AI is clearly the leading actor in this revolution, and we have already seen many newsrooms experimenting with it – frankly, with very mixed results. The challenge with AI is that it needs to be much more than just a fancy add-on that is fun to use. Many newsrooms require no complex AI wizardry but straightforward and efficient tools that enhance the journalistic process, encourage collaboration and multi-user editing, and seamlessly integrate important elements like fact-checking, SEO optimisation or channel-specific customisation.
This is the main conclusion of Autentika's latest trend book, The Newsroom of Tomorrow. The journalistic world does not need innovation for innovation's sake. It needs innovations that help journalists achieve their goals and stay true to their values. Change should make people's work easier, not more complicated. And although I will show you a few examples of successful AI use, not all media are betting on this horse.
Approaches to innovation: Spiegel, Burda, and Swedish Radio's strategies
Let's look at the Spiegel Group, one of the most technologically advanced media companies, which has its own technical arm, the SPIEGEL Tech Lab. "Technology alone is not enough," André Basse, the Managing Director of SPIEGEL Tech Lab GmbH, told me.
His team delivers technologies and products for the Spiegel editorial teams, but they do not just blindly follow trends. They iterate, test and iterate again to ensure their efforts lead to better collaboration among journalists, time and resource savings and improved content consistency. AI is on the agenda, but it is not the only focus.
The same is true for Burda Media or Swedish Radio. "We are focusing on tools that can speed up editors’ work and how we can integrate them into our publishing systems"" says Maciej Klepacki, CEO at Burda Media Polska.
Olle Zachrison, head of AI at Swedish Radio, admits that the public broadcaster is experimenting with AI and automation, for example, in the field of automatic tag extraction or transcription.
Nevertheless, SR's foremost objective remains aligned with its core journalistic mission. A flagship initiative in this field is using a combination of human judgement, algorithms and metadata tags to assign news values to each story to decide where it should appear. This human-algorithm relationship works perfectly: stories with SR’s unique public service values achieve 28 per cent more engagement than the others.
Innovations benefitting local journalism
Notably, smaller newsrooms have also showcased successful innovations. For instance, a Norwegian local newspaper, iTromsø, has developed an AI mechanism that scours municipal archives for reports on the development of buildings and land – a pressing concern in the region. What used to take hours for humans now only takes minutes for the AI – and, as we hear from Lars Adrian Giske, project manager and web content editor at iTromsø, "the results are impressive".
Kontinentalist, a Singapore-based data journalism company, offers another compelling case. This newsroom specialises in debunking stereotypes, challenging misconceptions and illuminating previously untapped stories from Asia.
To act effectively, the team developed an in-house CMS designed to support collaborative data storytelling — a pivotal element in delivering data-driven narratives. Journalists can now easily accommodate complex data visualisations and interactive elements without the need to engage developers or possess coding skills. A perfect example of an efficient editorial tool that follows the actual need – not just the trend.
Key considerations for publishers
We might soon witness advanced AI mechanisms, Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR) in newsrooms, and cool gadgets that assist journalists in reporting. Still, the need should precede the solution, not vice versa. And while innovations – including those based on AI – are becoming an integral part of newsrooms, the journey is usually neither quick nor without challenges.
Transformations require careful consideration of technological limitations, cultural shifts, and ethical concerns. Newsrooms must critically assess their existing publishing software, considering user experience, stability, technical capabilities, and team skills, before jumping into deep water. Only then will innovation be a real opportunity – not a wasted potential.
Michał Samojlik is the CEO of Autentika, a consulting and delivery team helping media transform by improving the efficiency of their editorial software.