Rather than AI replacing journalists, Alessandro Alviani believes editorial teams can leverage AI to enhance and augment their work.
Formerly as the Editorial Director at the Microsoft News Hub, Alessandro experienced firsthand the consequences that replacing human editors with automated systems caused. Drawing from his experience he says that the key is to empower journalists with AI tools rather than displace them. "It's our responsibility to help editors develop a more realistic approach to AI," he says.
Now, as the Product Lead on AI at the German newsroom Ippen Digital, Alessandro has led the creation of a range of innovative AI products - from interview transcription tools to illustration generators - with transparency, responsibility, and human oversight as key principles.
What I found particularly interesting was his three-pronged strategy towards an editorial-first approach to building AI products: internships with his product team, having two editors embedded within his 10-person team, and deep-dive discovery sessions across their newsrooms to understand editorial needs.
This approach, which emphasizes collaboration and hands-on involvement, led to innovations such as an editorial assistant that was developed with input from human editors. With transparency and human oversight as guiding principles, Ippen's AI team built a self-evaluation system on top of their generative AI tools to automatically evaluate the quality of their output.
Through their internal AI training programs, Ippen Digital strives to give every employee - not just technologists - a solid understanding of how AI models function, where they fall short, and why human judgment is irreplaceable.
My biggest takeaway from Alessandro was this: by proactively shaping how AI gets built and deployed, journalists have an opportunity to set their direction. The future of news isn't human versus AI - it's human augmented by AI. And for the survival of quality journalism, getting that balance right is imperative.
In the second part of our conversation out next week, Alessandro discusses how Ippen Digital is working on fine-tuning large language models for specific newsroom tasks. He also discusses his collaboration with colleagues at The Times of London as a 2022 JournalismAI fellow, where he developed a tool and methodology for journalists to track manipulated narratives, especially those from state-run media.