Rwanda: Journalists Urged to Embrace Artificial Intelligence

29 September 2019

Journalists need to embrace AI (Artificial Intelligence) in order to overcome the challenges faced by the media industry today.

That was highlighted during the 11th Global Investigative Journalism Conference 2019 that was held this week in Hamburg, Germany.

In a session that discussed the 'challenges ahead for the media industry'; matters around data ownership and privacy, an evolving business model, time and resources were some of the aspects that were highlighted.

Marina Walker Guevara, Director of Strategic Initiatives at International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) said that there is so much hype around Artificial Intelligence and that because it has a lot to offer in journalism, there is need to look at it as a tool to solve problems that are being faced such as big data.

Without the help of technology, it will be hard for the media because the world is getting more precarious and there is not enough time, so the question is, how can we use technology to overcome this, how can we make sense of millions of images, audios, files as journalists, Guevara said.

On how AI can transform journalism, she said that journalists need to, first of all, be literate about AI, for this will facilitate their work.

"AI is not magic, it isn't perfect, it is a process and it needs us to be proactive because there are problems that need simpler solutions not only AI, and we need to be able to identify this," she said.

Catherine Gicheru, a veteran investigative journalist and Editor said that the biggest challenge is sustainability.

"One of the biggest challenges in terms of sustainability is getting to understand your audience intimately and getting them to work with you. But in this, I also find huge and new opportunities which I think will help us do the kind of work that we want to do," she said.

Gicheru emphasised that with the right strategies, opportunities will come out of these challenges noting that there are currently quite a number of initiatives where different news organisations are trying to find ways of keeping themselves alive without necessarily depending on donor funding or advertisements.

"It is important to understand our audiences. But also finding how we can collaborate internally as journalists for example when it comes to using new models that we are talking about for example AI," she said.

"Going forward from the perspective of where we are, we will do these things at a different pace but in a way that makes sense to our audiences. We need to be able to work collaboratively internally within the continent as well as externally to try and come up with content that will enhance trust," Gicheru added.

In order for journalists to continue standing firm in their profession, Dr. Carsten Brosda, Minister of Culture and Media of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg encouraged them to stand in their independence and bow to no power.

"If journalism doesn't work democracy, doesn't work, so we need journalism in order for democracy to work. This is one of the main tasks that we have all over the world."

The four-day conference attracted over 1,600 journalists from 130 countries.

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