This commentary originally appeared in the author’s newsletter, OIGO, and is republished here with permission.
AI is becoming a powerful tool in various industries, as well as prompting global discussions about regulation and the future of work. But what about public media, and how can we stay relevant?
I want to explore two sides of the AI conversation. First, how do we engage ethically with AI? And how can AI serve our efforts to reach Latino audiences?
The content and engagement space encompasses creation, experiences and service activities. AI can revolutionize how information is distributed, consumed and engaged with by audiences. However, integrating AI into public media raises ethical concerns. Our core audience likely comes to public media as (implicitly human) custodians of reliable information. Whether AI intersects with this work impacts donor relations, jobs and other aspects.
It doesn’t seem like a particularly good strategy to reject technology that is widely used in our world today. Technology has already become a part of content curation. Instead, it’s imperative that set our brand apart and get people to understand the value of human curation.
Public media faces additional challenges in connecting with diverse audiences, including Latinos, in an increasingly digital world.
One of the most common refrains is that algorithms are biased. AI systems certainly have issues but are as unbiased as the data they are trained on. As a result of bias or a lack of diversity in the training data used for AI algorithms, existing stereotypes and inequalities can be perpetuated. Thus, it is imperative that public media ensure that AI systems are trained on diverse datasets that represent the full spectrum of voices and lives.
On the topic of bias, we have to stay vigilant about such matters among staff members. It is likely to be easier to identify and fix a bias in code than to ask someone to address unconscious biases that may have been part of their life for years. We must continue to support leadership development and training whenever we can.
AI algorithms are increasingly affecting content curation and recommendation, resulting in potential concerns regarding the information available to users. If priority is given to engagement metrics over quality or diversity, users may be exposed only to similar ideas and viewpoints. To prevent this, careful consideration must be made when striking a balance between utilizing AI-driven personalization and introducing different content for greater exposure. We strive to provide not only what people enjoy but also something new to explore. We can focus on this more.
While AI offers significant opportunities for public media in our quest to engage Latino audiences, it is also crucial to consider aspects such as data privacy and equity in access to technology. Furthermore, AI should complement and enhance quality journalism, rather than replace it.
In the context of engaging Latino audiences, I come to this dialogue with the optimistic assumption that AI can offer unique opportunities. In order for this to happen, potential challenges must be addressed and inclusivity must be ensured.
AI can be used in a number of ways to enhance the engagement and participation of Latinos in public media:
- The use of social media and certain platforms has made it possible to increase community engagement and feedback. To make this even more accessible across public media, AI-powered interactive platforms could be employed in order to foster real-time participation from Latino audiences. Gathering feedback, conducting surveys and providing opportunities for dialogue could help shape content and story ideas with input from the community, which could then create a sense of ownership among these audiences.
- An ongoing subject I encounter in public media is the translation of content. AI-driven language translation faces challenges but has seen some advances. It still needs human input to ensure accuracy and provide context and finesse. I see potential for AI to enable public media organizations without large bilingual teams to overcome language differences and make information and content available in preferred languages. To paraphrase Natalie van Hoozer’s comments, though, don’t overestimate technology’s capabilities — due importance must be given to bilingual staff as well.
- Similarly, a lot of public media organizations struggle to find better Latino content and stories. There is increasing information about cultural nuances, preferences and interests that can be used to program algorithms to understand and recommend culturally relevant content to and for Latino audiences. With such information, public media can create content that resonates with Latino audiences, strengthening bonds with them.
- While I’m not sure public media has the capacity to do this yet, or whether it is simple and affordable enough for much of our industry, I think about the potential of a future where AI is used to amplify the voices and stories of the Hispanic community by studying user-generated content. Current solutions are quite costly for most organizations. With such data, we could recognize trends and relevant subjects for our multifaceted society, which in turn would help public media create more accurate and respectful representations. This would bring greater inclusion and diversity to public media’s output, deepening the engagement of Latinx audiences and fostering faith in public media.
- I’m excited about how AI can help public media entities personalize content better. NPR is a leading organization in creating comprehensive profiles of its audience. To do this locally, we would need to collect information on members, including demographic data and insights into their content habits and preferences. This data could then be used with AI to create tailored recommendations for their users. Doing so would make it possible to deliver Latinos a more immersive and appropriate experience.
The incorporation of artificial intelligence in public media has the potential to revolutionize how it engages with Latino audiences. We are not yet there, but there may be hope that AI will enable organizations to bridge language barriers, curate culturally sensitive content and increase engagement with this community. Nonetheless, considerable attention must be given to issues such as bias and algorithmic transparency when utilizing AI tools. It’s a requirement for public media entities to create these systems with diversity and inclusivity in mind. If they can overcome any obstacles, AI could prove a pivotal aspect of creating a more representative and inclusive atmosphere within public media.