AI: Threat Or Opportunity? News Leaders Take Up Topic At IAB NewFronts

Managing the threat of AI, correcting common misperceptions of news, and investing in new innovations were three of the subjects put before a panel of five leaders of name-brand news media at the IAB NewFronts Monday in New York.

IAB CEO David Cohen (above photo, top row center) moderated the panel, whose five participants were: Deborah Turness, CEO, BBC News & Current Affairs (top row, left); Mark Thompson, chairman and CEO, CNN Worldwide (top row, right); Cesar Conde, chairman, NBCUniversal News Group (bottom left); Meredith Kopit Levien, president and CEO, The New York Times (bottom center); and Katherine Maher, president and CEO, NPR (bottom right).

Here is what they had to say:

On Artificial Intelligence



Cohen:Deep fakes, misinformation, disinformation … AI is the belle of the ball in the industry. It has a threat vector, it has an opportunity vector. In your space, I hear it’s mostly on the threat side of the equation. Talk about what you’re doing to combat AI. How do you ensure that your articles are trusted? 

Levien: The Times is doing two [AI] experiments right now that are early, but one is with synthetic audio where you can basically listen to most of The New York Times every day. We have another experiment where we are trying to scale Spanish translation, which is a largely human endeavor because of the care that has to go into getting the words right. We’re seeing the degree to which generative AI can help us augment that. … The possibilities are really significant.

Maher: It has to come back to two core things I really think about. One is the human in the loop, making sure that we’re really clear that there is somebody who is involved in the editorial oversight of everything that comes out. When that breaks, that’s going to decrease trust across the entire industry. And the second piece is being really transparent with our audiences when we’re using AI.

On misperceptions of news

Cohen:What is a misperception [about news] that you’d like to set straight?

Thompson: I know from decades of experience that the overwhelming majority of journalists and editors who work for institutions like these passionately care about getting it right. And sure, we screw up sometimes, but there’s an immense amount of care and effort where we are reporting the news honestly and truthfully.

And I think something else we need to remind everyone, including advertisers, is that this is not some sort of cynical game for us. Most of us have devoted our lives to trying to get something right and are still killing ourselves to try and do that.

Turness: At BBC, we say that what we do is we’re engaged in the pursuit of truth. We have no agenda. And the second half is just as important as the first half. And we live by that. You’re standing up for impartial journalism in a world where people are living in echo chambers. It’s really, really hard because when they emerge from their echo chambers, and they meet impartial journalism, they think it’s against them. 

On new innovations

Cohen:I want to inspire this audience with new products that you are rolling out in the coming 12 months or so. Talk about some of the things that you’re excited about.

Conde: The one we are most excited about is our streaming platform, NBC News Now. We started making aggressive investments in that four years ago and, fast-forward to today, we have built a large-scale, new news platform for us in this new ecosystem. It is all advertising-supported, so it is free to our consumers. … We wanted to make sure that we had some of the best journalism that we produce available for audiences in front of a paywall.

Thompson: We have hundreds of millions of views of vertical video and other video. But many people, younger people, find it on Tik Tok or YouTube, and most news websites kind of look like they’re in the newspaper tradition. So, what does a true video-led news product look like? I don’t think anyone has built a great video-led news product, and we want to build that.

2 comments about "AI: Threat Or Opportunity? News Leaders Take Up Topic At IAB NewFronts".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, May 1, 2024 at 6:45 p.m.

    I am reminded of the chess competitions between Deep Blue and Garry Kasparov 17 years ago. Garry won the first match in 1996 but lost the second match in 1997.

    Years later, AI has become a big "opportunity" but not for humans. Neural networks are here to stay.

    Your move.

  2. Konstantin Dolgushin from Names and Facts, May 7, 2024 at 1:59 p.m.

    Thank you very much for sharing this article, I find it very insightful and even eye-opening. Really keen to see what the future holds for humanity.

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