Google HQ. AI journalism illustrates how CI is needed.

I’m at Google HQ in London for the release of their expected collaborative report on AI in journalism driven. Professor Charlie Beckett from the LSE heads up the team. It’s a full house. Tickets were difficult to come by. There are people waiting in the foyer, wanting to get in, we’re told.

The report’s release and speakers goes well. The upshot is journalists are still experimenting, but also relatively few compared with the industry at large understand it. It’s still a black box, quite literally. One area grabs my attention. Could AI do for journalism what it misses and limit inherent biases the report asks. It says:

A majority of respondents said that they had not experienced this corrective effect yet. Their focus is still very much on the bias of algorithms or the audience rather than journalistic ‘filter bubbles’.

How AI in journalism ensures critical investigation around several issues before code becomes embedded and normalised is the question. How, for instance, can AI journalism embrace diversity is deeply problematic in traditional journalism? Read Marcus Ryder’s illuminating post on the status quo. How and who overseas this or polices future reports to ensure journalism reflects inclusivity? The recent general election threw up further queries.

Meanwhile, in Cardiff, AMPLYFi, a business intelligence outfit is in the midst of building a next generation search cum analytical tool for journalists. It’s one of the bid winners for Wales’ Creative Clwstwr and is being methodical in its approach, aware of the hurdles. I sit on their editorial board and am one of Clwstwr’s co-investigators.

News about AI in journalism, which is making gains across several industries, raises some concerns. In Kings Cross the Met gave permission to a private company to deploy facial recognition with no oversight. The Haar Cascade debacle and the ensuing colour bias in AI not being able to read black faces has gained wide consumption in magazines like Wired Magazine. Prof Noel Sharkey from Sheffield University robotics requested such facial recognition systems be scrapped.

What’s needed is a far more nuanced critical investigation and investment of diverse talent in journalism. At last month’s Edinburgh’s Beyond — a conference for creatives and academics, Karen Palmer, a futurists creative storyteller provided a glimpse of a narrative in which the future was apocalyptic for eclectic communities. Amenities may not function properly and incarceration may trump civil rights because the embedded code righteously says so.

How can decision making be codified based on people’s complex behaviours? This isn’t just a matter for demographics, but the intricacies of behaviour and values, deconstructed in the popular OCEAN model used by sentiment analysis firms.

Palmer whose work uses AI and machine learning too, received praise for her extraordinary approach to storytelling in relaying complex issues prompting a panelist, Professor Michael Rovatso to say: “You’ve done what would have taken me a number of lectures”.

Critical thinking or otherwise investigations and storytelling has been upper most in my colleagues and mine mind for several years. It led to the launch of a lab that existed between the overlap of journalism and several wider storytelling forms. Now that model is being revamped for delivery in Cardiff, with new collaboration with Tramshed Tech. Thanks Jess!

At the University’s Engineering department too Professor Rossi Setchi has just launched the Centre for Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and Human-Machine Systems, whilst ongoing conversations too with Jose Velazquez from IBM I hope will also yield successes.

Creative storytelling’s dual mission is to empower cohorts to create distinct stories that are memorable, that may also assist in producing compelling narratives in tech. It’s also about deconstructing complex events that can be produced as immersive films and exploring multifarious platforms. Take for instance research-led papers, or otherwise successful research bids. How can they be produced as films, so they’re fit for television broadcast or cinema release.

We’ve previously demonstrated this approach with a film at the famous Regent Street Cinema in London to launch a £500,000 AHRC research project called Bass Culture. The film was shot on mobile and delivered within three weeks from concept to completion. At Cardiff Met, similarly we’re following a similar trail for their 2021 REF.

Lab Approach

The lab approach combines the use of serious games in action, with cross discipline methods. The following is a brief journey flow.

It starts with bold ideas, and the exploration of how an idea is stress tested and tentatively hacked through various story funnels.

Employers, such as PwC, have been telling us that the five main qualities they’re looking for in new recruits are creativity, problem solving, critical investigation and collaboration. Presenting skills encompasses “coordinating with others as well as emotional intelligence and judgement.

By simulating the appropriate environment and framing the issue, cohorts are placed into the realm of the work-journey flow. As such they negotiate a number of hurdles towards the completion of their task. Small group exchanges or discussion allow for knowledge transfer. Mentoring cohorts supports this approach and the students become adaptive to a design thinking approach, using deep research and agile production to look for solutions.

It’s important for us that cohorts become comfortable at advance research and exploring patterns of data. Two years ago, the Guild of Entrepreneurs (below), one of London’s foremost liveries were mentors and judges to presentations that included, an instagram documentary and binaural sound podcast.

User deep personas, understanding audiences is less about examining demographics, but comprehending more discerning values and the long view about gaining traction. Take Buzzfeed’s articles for instance they were made to align with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. In this case, we examine the OCEAN model for values and behaviour.

As an all rounder, being creative, a problem solver, and collaborator, presenting — how to either use a deck or pitch solo on stage is a pre-requesite. This looks behind the psychology of space, and use of memory. Below, Nasma presents her journey flow which includes a mobile game around Syrians leaving their country.

As a way to reciprocate the value from our mentors, we ensure our mentees present a production gift to their mentor. Bowen, one of my former students, now working at HSBC, took still portraits of her mentor Lee Robertson, an award-winning wealth manager and CEO and founder Octo Members Group. We’re extremely grateful to Lee and look forward to working with him again.

We’d like to think that the potential of this programme means our cohorts can work across discipline. If you’re interested in knowing more, collaborating or acting as a mentor, please drop me a line.


Dr David Dunkley Gyimah is the first Brit to win the (US) Knight Batten Award for Innovation in Journalism. He’s also won awards international awards and video and cinema journalism. He’s a former broadcast journalist/ producer for Channel 4, Newsnight, ABC and the BBC World Service. He’s set up hubs or worked around the world. He is one of @Medium (twitter’s platform) top global twenty writers in journalism and a former Artist in Residence at London’s SouthBank centre. He based at @Jomec ( Cardiff). For more on David click here.

Top Writer & Creative Technologist, Int. Award Winner. Cinemajournalist. Cardiff Uni @jomec. PhD (Dublin). Visiting Prof UBC, Ex BBC/C4News. Apple profiled.