Strengthening on-the-ground journalists using Artificial Intelligence

artificial intelligence

While AI cannot take over a story told from the ground, it can play a huge role in keeping the reporter ahead. It is a tool that can inform a reporter about the narratives circulating globally, the aspects of the story people are interested in and what is happening in other locations of the same war

The picture of a journalist with a typewriter will always stay embedded in our heads. It is important to remember that the cornerstone of journalism is great storytelling and ground reportage. Only with original on-ground stories can a journalist make a difference to his/her profession and to the society.

I remember the time when we were in Afghanistan in 2001 – on the frontline between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. We were standing right outside Kunduz, the last remaining stronghold of the Taliban in Northern Afghanistan. 

The battle started unfolding. The troops began to march towards Kunduz. We were in a dangerous place. My colleague Satinder Bindra and I decided to move back to safety at night to Taloqan. 

The next morning at 11 a.m., we went live from Kunduz. That day, we were on air continuously for almost four hours as history was unfolding in front of our eyes. This was the last stronghold of the Taliban in the North. 

Amid such high adrenaline, dangerous and intense reporting, how can Artificial Intelligence (AI) help a reporter? 

AI cannot take over a story told from the ground. But it can play a huge role in keeping the reporter ahead. It is a tool that can inform a reporter about the narratives circulating globally, the aspects of the story people are interested in and what is happening in the other locations of the same war. This can be a boon to the reporter present on the ground.

I also know this closely because I have been working on an AI tool with a team of engineers. This endeavour is part of my companies foray into making sure that journalists do not waste time when they are on the field to research and put context to their stories. 

Competition Mapping 

As journalists, we always look at what the competition is writing about. There will always be stories that we may be looking for but cannot get to fast enough. 

AI can help competition mapping on the fly by focussing attention on the stories that need to be looked at in your dashboard. The most valuable thing for a reporter on the field is time – when you are on the field, time flies and you must react fast to any information that floats in. 

AI fills that gap. It is your assistant on-the-go, helping you focus your time on storytelling. As the area expands, it is going to help you focus on geo-tagged content around you, so that you can decipher what stories are important and physically interact with them.

Opinion on Social Media

Tonnes of information is constantly being shared on social media. Eventually, relevant information around your story will also be shared. Access to this content can uplift your report and add a layer to it. Since we cannot be at the epicentre of watching all the tweets that are flying, technology can come to our rescue here. AI tools can find posts around your area of interest. It can further find those stories where audiences are constantly engaging.

Video and Artificial Intelligence

The review process of the AI now is resting on learning how humans make changes in the system. After enough usage of the system, the machine begins to get better at its task. 

It also learns how to handle audio levels like, for instance, when the natural sound needs to be higher and lower. It also puts on name supers, location bugs and information crawlers on the story. If each of these tasks had to be done manually, the video editor would have to spend hours altogether. 

To script your story, you would use your AI-based research assistant, which would enable you to build a comprehensive storyline. And then you upload your script into the AI-based video-editing platform with your footage. Based on your text, AI would suggest more images and video from the open sources. You review the suggestions of the machine, make appropriate changes and the machine edits your video story. And then you are done for the day. 

AI and Machine Learning together can make the life of journalists easier and empower them further. At present, journalists are constantly burning themselves out to compete on multiple mediums.

However, AI should bring cohesiveness and ease of doing a comprehensive story without going crazy on a manual treadmill.

(Rohit Gandhi has spent three decades in journalism, first being a frontline journalist covering war zones, and then managing newsrooms and innovating technologies to make the life of journalists safe. He works on reducing global conflict by using journalism and good communication to play a positive role.)

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