AI & Local News newsletter, issue 7

a boat passing a bridge

🔔 I’m excited to share the results of the U.S. newsroom AI readiness scorecard survey from the Associated Press with interviews conducted in collaboration with Northwestern University’s Knight Lab. This important report — Artificial Intelligence in Local News — investigates the AI and automation usages and needs of local newsrooms, identifies opportunities for innovation, and shares anecdotes that highlight what’s happening in local newsrooms. (Check out page 55 for a great list of software used by local newsrooms.)

🗓️ Today (April 6) Brown Institute’s Local News Lab is hosting a Community Call to present work on their recommendation system project. The Associated Press’ AI Readiness Workshops runs for six weeks starting April 13. See our event listings below for more info about these and other upcoming events.

📨 Finally, our newsletter archive is now easily accessible. Thanks to our new graduate student program assistant Sarah Cooke-Williams for putting this together.

Matt MacVey
Community & Project Lead, AI & Local News
NYC Media Lab

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Partner News

Associated Press: “AP published its findings shared by almost 200 local news leaders across the U.S. on AI readiness. The report is a rare glimpse into what is happening at the local level when it comes to technology and managing the onslaught of information with a shrinking news operation. Starting April 13, AP is offering a free, six-week online course for local newsroom staff, which was informed by the report. Read the report and sign up for the course.”

Brown Institute’s Local News Lab: “The Lab is thrilled with our collaboration with our first cohort with The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Texas Tribune. We were delighted to present the results of the a/b tests with our recommendation system with the Tribune this week which showed a substantive increase in click-through-rate compared to the editor-curated recommendations. This testing indicates higher engagement and recirculation using our system which is of course what we were hoping for! This means that their editorial staff can spend more time editing, and less time manually curating recommendations for each article.

As we wind down our work with our inaugural cohort, we are excited to open applications for our second cohort, which will kick off in June. The Local News Lab team will work with a new cohort to prototype a product we collectively conceive, and share data science and analytics best practices that can help inform newsroom strategy. Apply now and reach out to Hannah Wise, Product + Community Lead with any questions.”

NYC Media Lab: “We’re excited to be at the halfway point with the inaugural cohort — Information Tracer, Localizer, Overtone, SimPPL and Social Fabric for Publishers — of the AI & Local News Challenge!

We’ve had a great group of guest speakers to date including Aimee Rinehart(program manager at AP for AI solutions and local news), Henning Johannesson (Chief Product Officer United Robots), Penny Abernathy (visiting professor at Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications), Evan Ryan (cofounder LedeAI). For our midpoint session we were pleased to be joined by Diana Lu (Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund), Roxann Stafford (Managing and Creative Director of Blueprint), Mark McKeague (R&D's Technology Director, New York Times), Emily Ristow (Director of Local News Transformation, American Press Institute), and Anant Gupta (Senior AI Research Engineer, Bloomberg).

We’re looking forward to our Challenge Demo Day in May. 

Also, now hiring for a Director of Partnerships at the NYC Media Lab. Check out our jobs page to learn more.”

Partnership on AI: Learn more about their AI & Media Integrity program.



Russia, Ukraine and the AI war

a boat passing a bridge

The Russian war against Ukraine has brought new forms of warfare to the international stage, where powerful technologies — such as machine learning and artificial intelligence - are important tools in the hands of both good and bad actors. Russia is using AI in order to attack physical targets, but also to create deep fakes and other forms of misinformation. Ukraine is working with international tech firms to defend itself in the information war.

  • Facial recognition firm Clearview AI has offered its services to Ukraine's government — namely a database of billions of facial images could help Ukraine uncover Russian infiltrators, fight misinformation and identify the dead.

  • Fortune reports on the use of AI by Russia — such as lethal autonomous weapons systems, or deepfakes in the information war — in the war in Ukraine. At the same time, the war is having deep repercussions on Russia’s expansionist AI ambitions, exacerbating brain drain and limiting its bargaining ability with China.

  • Protocol has outlined how technology from companies like Quanteza, Windward and Skytek — which use AI-based data analytics to monitor risk posed by sanctioned entities — is being used amid the Ukraine conflict. 

  • On Twitter, AI researchers are thinking about their role and the role of AI technology in the war and how AI can solve entrenched geopolitical conflicts.


AI is an ally against gender disparity in the news

Women’s representation in the news has many documented problems, including the frequent perpetuation of gender stereotypes and a lack of representation of women as expert sources. Sabrina Argoub goes through three interesting examples of how AI can help raise awareness on issues of misrepresentation of women in the news.

Polis LSE Blog


This new tool allows journalists to quickly sort through FOIA data

The troves of documents turned over in response to Freedom of Information Act requests can be large and time consuming to parse through. NYU’s Center for Data Science is trying to sort out this issue using an artificial intelligence tool capable of searching large caches of text documents and categorizing them by relevance, reducing the time needed to sift through everything.

Columbia Journalism Review 



International Journalism Festival
Date: April 6-10
AI Sessions
All sessions are live-streamed, available for viewing during the festival on the festival website homepage.

Local News Lab Community Call
Date: April 6, 2-3pm ET
The Brown Institute’s Local News Lab will be hosting its next community call on April 6 — joined by partners The Texas Tribune and The Philadelphia Inquirer. RSVP

Blue illustration of people using different technological devices

Local News AI Readiness Workshops by the Associated Press
Date: April 13 (and ongoing)
The AP will walk attendees through how to build a technology strategy across newsgathering, production, distribution and business operations - all through the lens of AI readiness in local newsrooms. Join this free, online course starting April 13. RSVP

AI and Tech Summit 2022
Date: April 22
One year on from the EU AI Act, Politico EU is hosting its AI and Tech Summit 2022 on April 22. The Summit convenes civil society, policymakers and tech leaders on legislation, innovation, and future frontiers for AI in the EU space.

The Data revolution
Date: May 11

Collaborative Journalism Summit
Date: May 19

Computation+Journalism Conference
Date: June 9-11


Research Brief

AI and Human Enhancement: Americans’ Openness Is Tempered by a Range of Concerns

half paper and half virtual version of Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man

A new Pew Research survey finds cautious optimism in American views on AI and its growing role. For instance, 45% of Americans surveyed say they are equally excited and concerned about the increased use of AI technology in daily life. While 62% see potential benefits for job productivity from brain chip implants, 78% say they would not want a brain chip implant if it were available.

Pew Research


Calls for Proposals 

Pulitzer Center Launches AI Accountability Network
The Pulitzer Center is accepting applications for its new Artificial Intelligence Accountability Network. The Network seeks to support journalists to report onAI and with AI. The Center is also offering an AI Accountability Fellowship and Machine Learning Grants.

Local News Lab Partner Application
The Local News Lab is seeking three publication partners for an eight-month project to being in June. They’ll lead interactive workshops and work collaboratively on a product with the goal of helping the publications meet their organization’s business needs. The product will build upon the Local News Lab’s past work on recommendations and the new partners will help shape the direction the project takes next.


Eye on AI

gif illustration of a blinking eye

Eye on A.I. is a biweekly podcast, hosted by longtime New York Times correspondent Craig S. Smith. Check out the “A National AI Research Resource” episode, featuring Daniel Ho of the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence on the effort to expand resources for academic researchers to level the playing field with the private sector.



Taking Back the Internet According to Jeff Jarvis


“The Internet is not broken in fact it is not finished yet, society maybe is broken and it is something we have to deal with [...] we have the time, power, and responsibility to build the internet we want,” said Professor of Journalism Innovation at the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Jeff Jarvis.

Salisbury Forum


Food for Thought

The AI historian: A new tool to decipher ancient texts A neural network, trained on thousands of existing inscriptions, could help historians figure out when and where a piece of writing comes from - as well as fill in missing words and characters.

Google is releasing an open-source harassment filter for journalists Starting with Thomson Reuters Foundation reporters, Google’s Jigsaw unit has released a code for an open source anti-harassment tool called Harassment Manager, which allows users to sort through potential online abuse on social media.

Number of the Month

$66.8 billion

the total funding for companies related to artificial intelligence in 2021, double the previous year’s funding according to CB Insights.

Tiger Global Was the Biggest Investor in AI at the End of 2021, Institutional Investor


The AI and Local News partners are Associated Press, The Brown Institute’s Local News Lab, NYC Media Lab and Partnership on AI.

The initiative is funded by Knight Foundation.

Newsletter produced by Angelo Paura