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Global audiences suspicious of AI-powered newsrooms, report finds


A man reads AI-generated documents through virtual reality equipment. /CFP
A man reads AI-generated documents through virtual reality equipment. /CFP

A man reads AI-generated documents through virtual reality equipment. /CFP

A new report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism raises concerns about artificial intelligence (AI) in news production, as the rise of AI tools for news creation, coupled with existing struggles to engage audiences, presents a fresh challenge for newsrooms worldwide.

The report, based on a survey of nearly 100,000 people across 47 countries, highlights audience anxieties surrounding AI-generated news content and notes this is particularly true for sensitive topics like politics.

News organizations are grappling with the rise of generative AI, with tech giants like Google and startups developing tools that summarize information and potentially divert traffic from news websites. However, the report reveals a public distrust of AI-generated news, raising questions about its viability and impact on revenue.

The report also delved into audience perceptions of AI-generated news. A significant portion of respondents to the survey expressed discomfort with news primarily produced by AI. This sentiment was particularly strong in the UK (63 percent) and the U.S. (52 percent). The report found that people were more accepting of AI being used behind the scenes to enhance journalistic efficiency.

Nic Newman, senior research associate at the Reuters Institute and lead author of the Digital News Report, said that "It was surprising to see the level of suspicion," he said. "People broadly had fears about what might happen to content reliability and trust."

The survey also revealed a continuing worry about online misinformation. Concerns rose by 3 percent compared to the previous year, with 59 percent of respondents expressing apprehension. This anxiety was particularly pronounced in countries like South Africa (81 percent) and the U.S. (72 percent), both of which are in election years.

The report also underscored the difficulties news organizations face in securing paying subscribers. Despite a pandemic-driven increase, only 17 percent of respondents across 20 countries reported paying for online news, a figure stagnant for the past three years. Notably, a significant portion of U.S. subscribers (46 percent) benefited from discounted rates, suggesting a reliance on promotional offers.

News influencers are playing a bigger role than mainstream media organizations in delivering the news to users of popular online platforms like TikTok. In a survey of more than 5,600 TikTok users who said they used the app for news, 57 percent said they mostly paid attention to individual personalities, versus 34 percent who said they mainly followed journalists or news brands.

The findings show that newsrooms need to build a direct relationship with their audiences while also "strategically using the platforms to connect with people who are trickier to reach, like younger audiences," Newman said. "We see that these influencers have a bigger role on the platforms."

(With input from Reuters)

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