WAJIC 2023: Digital experts say AI should be embraced; recommend collaborative journalism

Digital stakeholders have supported the innovation of artificial intelligence in the technology space, advocating for its potential to be positively leveraged by journalists. 

This view was upheld during a panel session at the first West African Journalism Conference (WAJIC). 

This conference was organised by the Centre for Journalism, Innovation and Development (CJID) at the Abuja Continental Hotel.

The experts also recommended collaboration among journalists across media platforms.

“If we (journalists) fail to understand that technology remains a tool to drive our work, and taking that tool to solve every challenge, then we are cowards,” Dataphyte founder and publisher Joshua Olufemi said during a panel session.

The conference, which hosted over 300 participants in the media sphere, is tagged “Accountability Journalism: Nurturing Innovation for a Sustainable Future.” 

The conference explores the crisis that has plagued journalism, including legislative suppression and crippled financing, aiming to reinvent solutions through technological-leaning options.

The panel session, moderated by Channels Television’s Maupe Ogun-Yusuff, focused on “Artificial Intelligence, Digital Innovations and the Future Journalism.” 

The session fielded technology personalities like Serena Stelitano from the Centre for Collaborative Investigative Journalism (CCIJ) and Africa Editor, Rest of the World, David Adeleke. Christopher Guess of Duke Reporters Laboratory, as well as founder and publisher of Dataphyte, Joshua Olufemi, was also in attendance.

As the session explored the rapid invasion of technology and its breakthroughs, the digital experts, who also double as journalists, acknowledged that two decades back, it was possible to predict the kind of technological development that is obtainable now, as some large technological enterprises had already been towing in that direction. 

Ironically, it is difficult to rightfully assert what the technological trend will be decades from now because digital innovation shifts quickly.

Despite that, it is easy to reconcile each periodic technological development with the other, with the help of journalism, because it is constant.

“It (technology) is unpredictable; technologies change a lot, but journalism doesn’t change.” Tech expert, Christopher Guess, declared.

Responding to the inquisition on whether artificial intelligence has done more good than harm, Mr Guess said that the digital concept may have towed along with it more negatively than positive ventures.

However, Mr Olufemi quickly pointed out that journalists can judiciously leverage artificial intelligence to make good informed reporting. He thought journalists could take the reins of the digital concept and use it to hoist data material for further reporting. 

“Instead of challenging these tools, let’s sensitise journalists and emphasise the purpose of journalism, using these tools,” the Dataphyte founder advised.

Quizzed whether, at this stage of technological development, any other thing can further be explored or whether there should be a stop, Mr Adeleke explained that the only constant phenomenon is human behaviour, which goes inversely to the diverse shifts in technological shifts and discoveries. 

He believes there can be a gainful interaction between the two if people decide not to follow the trends but rather engage with each technological phase to understand its systemic operation. He is convinced that when people do that, they can determine what they can do by the time a digital stage becomes obsolete.

An audience member asked Mr Guess if technological evolution prevents journalists from getting sidetracked in their reporting. The technology expert responded that artificial intelligence didn’t kill journalism but that human priorities did. He advised that successful journalists don’t sieve through stories to report so that they can get clicks but to report what happens.

Ms Stelitano, who attended the conference virtually, encouraged collaborative journalism. She stated that a conscious interaction between journalists and experts from other occupations, including technologists and scientists, can foster effective investigative journalism.

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