The New York Times, long known as the U.S.’s “newspaper of record,” has surrendered to the economic realities of newspapering in the 21st century: bots can help the bottom line by doing work that reporters used to do.
That’s why The Times is looking for “a senior editor to lead the newsroom’s efforts to ambitiously and responsibly make use of generative artificial intelligence.”
In exchange for an annual salary of $180,000 to $200,000, the person hired will “shape the vision for how we approach this technology and will serve as the newsroom’s leading voice on its opportunity as well as its limits and risks.”
Among the job’s responsibilities:
- heading a team of journalists, technologists, and designers that will conduct research, develop prototypes, and conduct experiments;
- deciding which uses of AI the newsroom should prioritize or pursue at all;
- keeping up to date on AI developments and tools and helping vet possible AI engines, including testing them for bias.
Qualifications for the ideal candidate?
- “Deep journalistic experience…with the ability to make sound judgments about journalistic standards and ethics;
- technical curiosity and fluency…the ability to code is preferred;
- experience navigating complex, high-stakes projects;
- the ability…to prioritize…and make trade-offs” in support of the paper’s AI strategy.
TRENDPOST: With newspapers in a financial crisis, bots can make papers’ limited budgets go further and let papers cover more news. As we noted in “AI As Meetings Monitor” (24 Oct 2023), bots already can attend and summarize meetings, so they could become the “reporters” at city council, corporate board, and other proceedings. They can dig into public records and find details quickly that could take a reporter days to find, if ever.
That would leave human journalists more time to interview sources, integrate information, and do the other more sophisticated and intuitive tasks that AI can’t do—at least not for a while yet.
However, the days of a bot being a reporter’s trusty right-hand assistant are a ways away: bots still have a habit of making things up and reporters don’t have time to check a bot’s every fact for accuracy.
Also, the Times likely will have to settle for someone willing to learn on the job. Most journalists versed in AI are those covering the news; editorial managers have probably not used their spare time learning to code or delve deep into AI’s issues.
The Times is embarking on a crucial experiment: finding a way to use bots that cuts costs without compromising the factual accuracy, depth, or analysis of the news being reported.
Other papers will look to the Times to establish procedures and standards, which will be a long work in progress marked by mistakes, corrections, and revisions, just as in every other field of work.
It will be a long and messy process.