Five journalism finalists for the 2024 Pulitzer Prize utilised AI in their work

The Pulitzer Board required entrants to disclose AI usage, with five out of the 45 finalists disclosed using AI in researching, reporting, or presenting their stories.

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Marjorie Miller, the administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, revealed that among this year’s 45 finalists in journalism, five disclosed using AI in various stages of their reporting processes. This is significant as it’s the first time the Pulitzer Awards, which received approximately 1,200 submissions this year, mandated entrants to disclose their utilisation of AI tools. The requirement was specifically added to the journalism category, reflecting the increasing prominence of AI technologies in the field.

The decision to incorporate AI disclosure stemmed from discussions within the 18-member Pulitzer Board, which began examining AI policies in response to the growing prevalence of generative AI and machine learning. Miller explained that while AI tools initially carried apprehensions among journalists, the board recognised the necessity of understanding both the capabilities and potential risks associated with AI.

Last July, amid collaborations such as OpenAI’s partnership with the Associated Press and the American Journalism Project, the Pulitzer Board sought insight into AI’s role in journalism. Mark Hansen, a professor at the Columbia Journalism School and director of the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation, facilitated sessions introducing the board to AI applications in newsrooms. Hansen, alongside industry experts, provided informative sessions ranging from interrogating datasets to the development of large language models.

Despite concerns surrounding AI’s impact on journalistic integrity, the Pulitzer Board maintained an exploratory approach, opting not to restrict AI usage to encourage innovation within newsrooms. While focusing on the practical applications of generative AI, discussions also delved into legal considerations such as copyright law, data privacy, and bias mitigation in machine learning models.

Similarly, the George Polk Awards, renowned for honouring investigative journalists, are contemplating the integration of AI in their evaluation process. John Darnton, the awards curator, expressed scepticism regarding AI’s ability to align with the ethos of investigative reporting, which prioritizes human judgement and discernment. However, the Polk Awards remain open to adaptation, considering strategies such as requiring entrants to disclose AI usage on a case-by-case basis.

Ralph Engelman, the Polk Awards faculty coordinator, emphasised the organisation’s history of recognising non-traditional approaches to journalism. While acknowledging the challenges of adapting awards policies amidst rapid technological advancements, Engelman highlighted the importance of maintaining the awards’ commitment to honouring journalistic integrity and human-driven reporting.

As the journalism landscape evolves with technological innovations, the incorporation of AI in reporting processes raises fundamental questions about the role of human judgement and ethics in journalism.