Data AI

New research by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ) found that UK media coverage of artificial intelligence (AI) is dominated by industry products and announcements, while journalists and commentators rarely acknowledge ongoing debates concerning AI’s potential effects.

An Industry-Led Debate: How UK Media Cover Artificial Intelligence, found AI is often positioned as a good solution to a range of problems from publishing content at local news outlets to faster coffee delivery, but outlets rarely question if the technology is the best solution for problems, or just how effective it will be.

Lead author Scott Brennen, research fellow, RISJ and the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, found that nearly 60 per cent of articles were focused on new AI releases and initiatives.

"Coverage often suggests AI will have massive influence on many different areas of our lives," he said.

"This may very well be the case, however, there remains a good deal of debate about if and how AI will disrupt or change our lives. Outlets don’t always do justice to those ongoing debates.”

The research was based on an analysis of eight months of reporting on AI, in six mainstream UK news outlets. It found one third of articles were based on industry sources – mostly CEOs or other senior executives.

As a result, Brennen explained the coverage is positioning AI as a private commercial concern, even though it is becoming an important public issue.

Instead, he said newsrooms should be addressing the many questions that AI poses, trying to be as specific as possible when covering AI technology, avoiding using ‘canned’ quotes from press releases or quotes from other news articles.

For example, how exactly does the system work? What actually makes the product ‘artificial intelligence?’ What are its current capabilities? What remains hypothetical/potential?

The study found reporters should be working to develop a diverse set of sources about AI that extends beyond industry CEOs or spokespeople. Engineers, computer scientists, social scientists, activists, regulators, and politicians can all provide different sorts of perspective on AI.

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