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Feeding the robots

- Wits University

The 19th African Investigative Journalism Conference sees hundreds of investigative journalists getting to grips with the new AI.

Feeding the robots generic photo

The 19th African Investigative Journalism Conference, hosted at Wits from November 20 to 22, brought together investigative journalists from across the world  to delve into the evolving landscape of artificial intelligence (AI) in journalism. The conference shed light on the pivotal role AI tools play in investigative reporting, with a focus on the importance of accurate communication with these technologies.

Michael Salzwedel, a Digital Media Specialist from Internews, who was one of the speakers at the event, underscores the significance of clear communication with AI, drawing a parallel between human relationships and interactions with AI.

"If you say you are in a relationship with someone, and you are unhappy with something, if you do not explain yourself properly, they will not understand you. The same goes for ChatGPT; you can't just tell it 'make a graph’. You have to indicate what the graph should be about, and what must it look like. So, you have to tell it clearly, the same with relationships; it's a lot about what we give than what we want," says Salzwedel.

The conference explored the intersection of journalism and AI, highlighting how AI tools such as ChatGPT are becoming integral in investigative reporting and data analysis.

One key takeaway from the conference is the emphasis on feeding AI accurate and healthy information. The workshop showcased practical applications of AI in journalism, moving away from traditional data-driven methods that require extensive training. The goal is to empower journalists to leverage AI for more accessible and engaging storytelling, irrespective of their technical background.

The Generating Change report from JournalismAI, presented by Tshepo Tshabalala, Project Manager and Team Lead of JournalismAI, during the conference, highlighted the evolving role of AI in newsrooms in 2023. The report delves into how generative AI has changed the way newsrooms perceive technology, addressing questions about its impact on journalistic practices.

The immersive exploration of generative AI's potential in newsrooms reveals its capacity to handle tasks ranging from automated data analysis to uncovering hidden patterns in public records. By harnessing the power of generative tools, journalists can streamline their workflow, allowing more time for focused storytelling.

The conference emphasised that high-quality data is paramount for deriving accurate insights from AI and machine learning. The key takeaway remains clear communication and providing AI with the right information. As Salzwedel puts it, "It's about what we feed AI more than what we want from it”. As AI continues to shape the future of journalism, fostering a healthy and communicative relationship with these technologies is essential for unlocking their transformative potential.