FT’s Barber: There are limits to what technology can do in journalism
Lionel Barber has been editor of the Financial Times for 14 years. On his final day in the job Thursday, he talked to the FT’s deputy opinion editor Miranda Green about how technology has its limits in journalism.
Here is an excerpt:
Green: Will the AI ever manage to compete with the judgement that a good responsible media organization has to make every day, many times a day, in which you’ve been at the center of that machine filled with humans making those judgement calls?
Barber: Yeah, I think you and I have answered the question. I mean, the journalists– the human mind cannot be replicated. I think judgement is massively important in today’s media. You know all about fake news– that’s an often-used term, but this notion of disinformation, misinformation, what can you trust. And the FT, we’ve tried very hard to make it still the center of authority, a place where you can read accurate and trustworthy news. And I think that does require judgement– curatorial judgement, human judgement. Artificial intelligence and machine learning can help us maybe sort a bit and prioritize, but I think there needs to be limits.
Green: But data– and the use of data in journalism– is obviously one of those things that the technology has enabled us to do more, and obviously, for a business newspaper, covering finance in some detail. That’s made a difference to our reporting already.
Barber: And I think that’s been very positive influence, because we know much more about our audience now than we ever did. Because we know what they’re reading, what they’re interested in, what they’re sharing. And previously, if you like, in the newspaper age, the way you kept in touch with readers was you read the letters page or you get a phone call from somebody who’s either angry or pleased. And obviously, we’re in a whole different scale. That’s been very important for the FT as we’ve grown our global audience now to almost 1.1 million paying readers.
To watch the full interview, go here.