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July 18, 2023, 2:58 p.m.
Aggregation & Discovery
Reporting & Production

OpenAI will give local news millions to experiment with AI

Some of the funding will go to form a “studio” within the American Journalism Project; the rest will go to about 10 of AJP’s grantees.

It used to be Facebook and Google doling out funds to local news publishers in an attempt to win them over (and, perhaps, quell said publishers’ dissent over how the platforms were using their content).

Now, OpenAI — the Microsoft-backed company behind AI chatbot ChatGPT — is the latest tech giant trying to woo publishers. In an announcement on Tuesday, OpenAI said it will give $5 million to venture philanthropy firm American Journalism Project to figure out how artificial intelligence can best be used to support local news.

Over the two-year partnership, the American Journalism Project will use some of that funding to support a three-person team that will “assess the applications of AI within the local news sector” and “organize a learning community across the AJP portfolio to document and share best practices, guidelines, and lessons as experiments unfold,” and will give the rest directly to “approximately 10” of its current grantees to help them develop tools on their own. Additionally, OpenAI is giving AJP “up to $5 million in API credits” so it and its grantees can experiment with the technology themselves.

“We proudly support the American Journalism Project’s mission to strengthen our democracy by rebuilding the country’s local news sector. This collaboration underscores our mission and belief that AI should benefit everyone and be used as a tool to enhance work,” OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said in the announcement.

Last week, OpenAI struck a two-year deal with the Associated Press to license some of its journalism to train its algorithms. The AP is the first news organization to partner with the company. The financial terms of the deal aren’t public.

Some local news organizations are already experimenting with AI on their own. It can cover public meetings, streamline newsletter generation, and help out in comments sections, for instance.

But ChatGPT often can’t distinguish between true and false information, leading to fears of misinformation at scale. The FTC is currently investigating OpenAI over ChatGPT’s potential harms. And with companies like BuzzFeed, CNET, and G/O Media already generating articles with the technology, there are fears that it will take over reporters’ jobs.

“We think it’s essential that generative AI is used as a tool for journalists, not as a replacement,” Sarabeth Berman, CEO of AJP, said in an email. “This partnership is intended to explore if generative AI can improve workflows so that editorial staff can spend more time on hard-hitting reporting (including providing verified facts and information) and the stories that matter most to the communities they serve. It is crucial to explore the ways in which AI could potentially support local organizations’ efforts to be sustainable and enable them to produce more of the work critical to their audiences.”

Read the announcement here.

Image generated by Midjourney

Hanaa' Tameez is a staff writer at Nieman Lab. You can reach her via email (hanaa@niemanlab.org) or Twitter DM (@HanaaTameez).
POSTED     July 18, 2023, 2:58 p.m.
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