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Aspen Digital

Raising the Bar on A.I. Reporting

A Q&A on the recently released A.I. Primers

A photograph of a stack of newspapers.
August 9, 2023

The AI Primers for Journalists are the first in a series of emerging tech resources researched, written, and published by Aspen Digital. While designed with journalists’ needs in mind, the three primers AI 101Intro to Generative AI, and Finding Experts in AI are useful to anyone interested in unpacking the sometimes-confusing and jargon-heavy world of artificial intelligence (AI).

Siegel Family Endowment sat down with Aspen Digital’s Emerging Technology Researcher, Eleanor Tursman, a Siegel Research Fellow, and Director of Emerging Technologies, B Cavello, to discuss their approach to the work and what they hope to see come out of it in the future.

Where did the idea for the AI Primer for Journalists come from? What challenges were you seeking to address?

Eleanor Tursman: Aspen Digital has a history of briefing news media on emerging topics. Our executive director [Vivian Schiller] has a lot of experience in the space, and other team members are interested in journalism and information integrity. 

When B joined, one of their big project ideas was to take difficult or complicated emerging tech topics and make them into digestible resources for different populations and audiences. We had already been working on AI more broadly when the surge in generative AI began last winter. All of a sudden there are all of these articles coming out about ChatGPT, Stability AI, Stable Diffusion, etc. that we found to be misleading on both what the tech was actually capable of and what might actually come once that tech was released into the wild. Between the generative AI hype cycle and the deep connections our team has to the journalist space, it felt like a good place to make a big impact by providing some kind of understandable resource for journalists. 

B Cavello: The short answer is journalists asked us for this stuff. As Eleanor mentioned, we already have a longstanding program of working with journalists on a variety of different topics. And repeatedly reporters were being asked to cover stories on AI and realizing that it’s very difficult to find both trustworthy and understandable content on this topic. We talked to a bunch of different journalists as part of the process of developing these primers and the thing that we heard again and again is “there’s stuff out there and yet it’s not serving our needs.” And so part of what motivated this work was really trying to take user-centered view on what would be useful to journalists to speak to this issue.

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