AI Hire: UK News Combine Brings On 'AI-Assisted' Reporters

Journalists are already worried about the impact of generative AI (GAI) on journalism. But another new wrinkle has appeared in the UK. 

Newsquest, publisher of the Glasgow Herald and numerous other titles, has hired eight “AI-assisted” reporters over the past year, The Guardian reports. 

These staffers input so-called trusted content — town council minutes, say — and the GAI tool turns this material into news reports in the publisher’s style, The Guardian writes. 

Some observers might find this a little questionable. The Guardian’s own code states that “that “AI systems should not be used to generate text or images intended to be directly inserted into published journalism outside of exceptional and specific circumstances.”

Is this one of those exceptional circumstances?

And the writing could become very formulaic. 



But the company argues that using GAI in this way is totally permissible.  

“Instead of shying away from it, or being scared of it, we are saying AI is here to stay – so how can we harness it?” says Stephanie Preece, editor of the Worcester News, according to The Guardian. 

But Preece sees the limitations: “AI can’t be at the scene of a crash, in court, in a council meeting, it can’t visit a grieving family or look somebody in the eye and tell that they’re lying. All it does is free up the reporters to do more of that.”

(It brings to mind what old-timers told Gay Talese when he was a young reporter at The New York Times: they counseled him against even using the telephone. ‘Never use the phone,” they said. ‘You have to go there, you have to be there, you have to see these people, you have to look at their faces, study their expression, their gestures, it’ll tell you more than just what comes out of their mouth.’)

Failing that, here’s the strategy: “In the future, the term AI-system reporter will be as redundant as the term internet-assisted reporter sounds now,” says Jody Doherty-Cove, head of editorial AI at Newsquest. (Yes, they have someone in that position, too). “The internet has helped support journalists to find information and create more enriching stories, and AI offers those benefits as well.”


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