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The potential of AI in Kenyan Journalism



The digital era has ushered in a new dawn of journalism, characterised by rapid technological advancements and shifting consumer preferences. In this context, AI technology has emerged as a disruptive force, offering journalists innovative tools to streamline news production, analyse data, and personalise content delivery. However, the integration of AI in journalism has raised serious concerns of job displacement, the quality of news output and caused genuine ethical jitters.

In December of last year, The New York Times filed a lawsuit against Open AI and Microsoft, accusing both firms of using data from their servers to train their AI Chatbots to compete with media publications as a reliable source of information. In what is expected to be a protracted legal duel, the publication argued that the actions of AI tech firms posed a direct threat to the sustainability of their business models.

“Defendants seek to free-ride on The Times’s massive investment in its journalism,” the complaint says, accusing OpenAI and Microsoft of “using The Times’s content without payment to create products that substitute for The Times and steal audiences away from it.”- Michael M. Grynbaum & Ryan Mac, The New York Times

Several stakeholders in the creative industry like photography syndicate, Getty Images and non-fiction novelists including Jonathan Franzen and John Grisham have also filed similar petitions, detesting the absorption of thousands of books and intellectual property through AI systems without consent and compensation. The situation has since prompted a serious review of copyright legislation in the United States and the courts decision is expected to set a precedent that would either embellish or tarnish the success of AI technology.

Regardless, AI technology offers numerous opportunities for innovation and efficiency gains in Kenyan journalism. One of the primary advantages is the ability to automate routine tasks, such as data analysis, fact-checking, and content curation, allowing journalists to focus on more creative and high-value activities. For example, news organizations can use AI-powered algorithms to sift through vast amounts of information, identify relevant news stories, and generate insightful reports in real-time. Moreover, AI can enhance audience engagement through personalized content recommendations and interactive storytelling formats, thereby strengthening the bond between media outlets and their readership.

But the technology equally presents a unique set of challenges. Despite its potential benefits, the integration of AI technology in journalism exposes media outlets to the risk of algorithmic bias, where AI systems perpetuate or amplify existing social, cultural, or political biases in news coverage. Moreover, the reliance on AI-driven algorithms may undermine journalistic integrity and editorial autonomy, leading to a homogenization of news content and a loss of diversity in perspectives. Additionally, the deployment of AI in journalism raises ethical dilemmas regarding data privacy, transparency, and accountability, as algorithms become increasingly opaque and difficult to regulate.

In conclusion, while the integration of AI technology in Kenyan journalism holds immense potential for innovation and efficiency gains, it also poses significant challenges that must be addressed. To fully harness the benefits of AI while mitigating its shortcomings, media organizations in Kenya must adopt a strategic approach that prioritizes transparency, accountability, and ethical considerations. By investing in AI research, training, and infrastructure, Kenyan media can leverage technology to enhance news production, audience engagement, and journalistic quality. Ultimately, the successful integration of AI in Kenyan journalism requires a balanced approach that embraces innovation while upholding the core principles of journalism ethics and professionalism.

In full view of the potential and limitations of AI tech, we must realise that the technology is only as potent as our human direction.