As of Friday afternoon, London World has published two daily weather bulletins under the “AI Newsroom” by-line.
The text of both bulletins are short, formulaic descriptions of the expected weather in London for the coming day, the next morning and the following days.
However, both are accompanied by a video of a computer-generated presenter narrating the text bulletin aloud.
In National World’s half-year report published in July, chairman David Montgomery told investors the company was making “a change to the operating model that is focused on automation, including the immediate exploitation of artificial intelligence in production across both print and digital platforms”.
No other National World websites appear to be using the AI bulletins at the time of writing. Conversely, several sites in Scotland and the north of England had multiple, reporter-written weather stories on their front pages on Friday, covering disruption and harm caused by Storm Babet.
London World’s is not the first AI presenter: a Kuwaiti news site made headlines in April with computer-generated newsreader “Fedha”, although she does not appear to feature in the website’s output now. Similar artificial anchors have launched in India, China and Greece, and PA Media (then named Press Association) launched the world’s first virtual newsreader, Ananova, back in 2000.
However, London World’s unnamed weather presenter appears to be the first attempt by a UK publisher to implement a presenter who is both computer-generated and reads from an AI-written script.
How UK regional publishers are using AI
Several National World websites make use of PA Media’s RADAR service, an algorithmically generated newsfeed launched in 2017. The service, which was already in use by National World’s predecessor company JPI Media, creates localised stories based on standardised data sets – for example, on crime figures or the number of pupil absences.
At rival regional news giant Reach, the editor of Nottinghamshire Live wrote to readers in August to say the site will experiment with AI-generated bullet point summaries at the start of longer articles. The Swedish daily Aftonbladet told Press Gazette in July that readers spend more time on its articles using similar AI-produced summaries.
In June, another major UK regional publisher, Newsquest, appointed Erin Gaskell its first “AI-assisted reporter”, meaning she uses tools like ChatGPT to draft some of her stories. Her author bio states: “However, a journalist or editor always decides what content to cover and always reviews this content before it is published.”
Gaskell appears to be producing numerous stories for both her home titles, The Mail in Cumbria and Westmorland Gazette, and for other Newsquest websites. Newsquest is currently hiring for another AI-assisted reporter focusing on Scotland.
The AI experimentation at National World sits against the backdrop of a union dispute with management over pay and wider workplace issues. On Tuesday, the company’s NUJ group chapel called off a five-day strike planned for next week, citing the “intransigence” of management in refusing to negotiate any further over a proposed 4.5% pay rise.
The post National World debuts AI-generated weather presenter on London site appeared first on Press Gazette.