The company appointed its first AI-supported journalist, Erin Gaskell, to the Hexham Courant in June.
Newsquest chief executive Henry Faure Walker told a Press Gazette event last month that when Hexham’s Sycamore Gap tree was felled in September, “the AI system reporter could pretty much hold the fort for the week filling the paper, and it freed the other reporter to go out and do really good investigative stuff, videos, and get behind the story”.
How do the Newsquest AI-assisted reporters use ChatGPT?
Newsquest’s head of editorial AI Jody Doherty-Cove told the NCTJ’s artificial intelligence in journalism event on Tuesday the publisher has built an in-house tool that drafts stories “based on trusted information”.
He demonstrated the dashboard that Newsquest’s seven AI-assisted journalists use. It features a “Notes” input field on the left into which reporters feed the information they have gathered. Typical inputs might include a press release or quotes from a source.
The generative AI then creates a story, displayed in the right-hand panel, for the reporter to review.
Doherty-Cove said: “We’re using this to alleviate the burden of the mundane, but very important, tasks that were on reporters, freeing them up to do that human touch journalism that really resonates with the communities.”
He described the set-up as a “human in the loop system” – meaning, one that ensures a journalist checks AI-generated copy so reporters “have first and last word when it comes to anything that’s produced”.
The journalists are primarily doing five things, Doherty-Cove said: ensuring the copy is accurate, exercising editorial judgement, protecting data and copyright and watching for any bias. He noted that sensitive information and personal data have to be kept away from AI systems that are not closed so they do not inadvertently end up elsewhere.
“We’ve produced thousands of articles this way, and we haven’t had any major errors reach the publishing stage,” Doherty-Cove said.
“It’s just acting as a hyper-efficient copywriter – drafting the story on certain instructions, and then it goes back to the reporter who reviews the draft before publishing it.”
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