Tips for creating a policy for AI use in journalism 

It’s not breaking news to write that AI is here and will become a shift in how we teach and publish in high school journalism programs.

AI offers a gateway to a world where information flows faster than ever, but it also presents a landscape fraught with ethical dilemmas and uncertainties.

However, rather than fear the future, we can simultaneously model how to use AI ethically, give students buy-in, and show them the limitations of AI. 

In my program, I started the school year by having students use AI to brainstorm ideas and then my editorial board refined the work into a coherent policy

Hopefully, these tips will help you feel ready to allow your students to create a similar policy.

First, have students write a lede about some well-known (or school) event

Scaffold the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.

Have them share their ledes and share one you made on your own.

This is where the AI exploration begins. Have them plug the Ws and H into ChatGPT or some other AI interface. If your school doesn’t allow access, you can try this at home and show them screenshots.

At this point, I ask my students whether they think this is good or not.

Your mileage may vary, but generally, they will notice that the “lede” written by AI is flawed. Perhaps it adds words, maybe it makes up facts, but this simple exercise is the intro for why we should create a policy.

During class, I would have students talk with a partner or table group to generate three-five ideas, and then share with the class. Have one of your editors or a class leader record the results of a class brainstorm.

If you have access to AI tools, I would encourage these small groups to ask GPT this question and review the results. Ask GPT: How should we ethically use AI in journalism?

Let the students review and keep what they think is useful. Perhaps they will suggest improvements to the tips generated by AI.

I highly recommend making sure students include the following in their policy:

  • Take responsibility for the content produced, regardless of AI involvement.
  • Verify information with reliable sources before publishing.
  • Be transparent about how and when AI tools are used
  • Create a standard for how you attribute and source AI-generated content

Then allow students to brainstorm and come up with ways that journalists can use AI to help them. Some recommendations include:

  • Use AI as a tool to aid and enhance journalism, but maintain human editorial control.
  • Research and Background Information
  • Leverage AI for data analysis and identify key points from interviews.
  • Employ AI to analyze and identify potential bias in gathered data
  • Draft emails and other written content using AI assistance.
  • Generate design concepts and graphics with AI tools for visual storytelling.
  • Create ideas and headlines through AI-generated suggestions.
  • Collaborate with AI to revise writing for grammar, tone, and structure.
  • Utilize AI to check for adherence to AP style and proper citation practices. (I don’t trust AI to use proper AP Style yet!)
  • Consult AI to identify suitable interviewees based on the article’s topic.
  • Consult AI to brainstorm interview questions based on the article’s topic.

By harnessing the power of AI, students can learn to be more discerning and critical thinkers, essential skills for the future of journalism.

But ultimately, they still have to be journalists.

Justin Raisner

Adviser of student media at Carlmont High School since 2009. Husband, father, terrible golfer, and sarcastic teacher. Member of NSPA, JEA, and JEA Norcal. Former web curriculum designer for JEA. Current English Department Chair, Media Arts English, and Journalism teacher. @jraisner on all social media

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