UNESCO Publishes Handbook for Journalism Educators on Reporting Artificial Intelligence

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Prof. Guy Berger
International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC)

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has published a new handbook for journalism educators on reporting on artificial intelligence (AI) in an effort to inspire and empower journalism educators to help journalism students and working journalists effectively inform their audiences about the implication of AI technology itself as well as other relevant aspects such as the issues of exclusions, unequal benefits, and the violations of human rights.

Titled “A Handbook for Journalism Educators: Reporting on Artificial Intelligence”, UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) supported the World Journalism Education Council in commissioning the handbook as part of its journalism education series.

The 135-page handbook, which was published in June 2023, covers the following topics:

·         Understanding machine intelligence and identifying different types of AI

·         Exploring AI’s potential, as well as its strengths and weaknesses

·         Imagining diverse futures with AI by recognising pervasive popular narratives that inform public consciousness

·         Understanding journalism’s role in mediating and shaping AI discourse

·         Finding ways of reporting about AI in a nuanced, realistic and accountable manner

·         Making connections to existing genres of journalism, ranging from general news reporting to data journalism

According to UNESCO, “Strengthening journalism education is one of the key results sought by IPDC, a unique intergovernmental programme within the UN system that specializes in media development”.

In a “Foreword” to the handbook titled: “Addressing the Diversity of Artificial Intelligence”, Prof. Guy Berger, former Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris who also served as secretary of the IPDC from 2011 to 2022, said: “at the very outset, journalism students should be acutely aware that the term AI itself means different things to many people. As journalists, their first job is to avoid conveying to audiences that there is a clearcut meaning of this quasi-magical combination of words.”

According to him, “we should recall that it is part of a journalists’ general vocation to assess what human rights may be harmed. In the case of AI, rather than be blinded by the promises of progress, it is key to consider especially the rights to dignity, privacy, equality and justice. In this vein, news stories can put on the political agenda the issue of ensuring independent audits of AI effects – and of unintended effects in AI deployments. Reporters can also play a role in bringing whistle-blower efforts into the light, triggering changes in both companies and governments in relation to their use of AI and its multiple components.”

Prof. Berger stressed that without informed and independent journalism on AI, society at large will have huge deficits in the transparency and accountability, which are absolutely essential for the governance of such an impactful technology, adding that “it is quality reporting that can delve into what packages of state regulation and self-regulation are optimum, and what potential exists for alternatives like co-regulation and multi-stakeholder regulation.”