How can a newsroom leader spearhead AI innovation when AI still remains a buzzword to much of their staff? This was the question lingering in my mind as I sat down with Louise Story, the former Chief Technology & Product Officer and Chief News Strategist at The Wall Street Journal. She’s also been the Executive Producer & Senior Editor of Live Broadcast at The New York Times and taught at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and the Yale School of Management.
With her unique blend of journalism and technology expertise, Louise has pioneered AI innovation in one of the world’s most prestigious newsrooms. She’s the industry’s first and only individual to have worked as a senior masthead news coverage leader and a chief technology officer, and the first woman to serve as CTO at a major U.S. news organization.
As a veteran journalist who drove major AI implementations at The Wall Street Journal, Louise broke down seemingly abstract concepts into practical steps for news companies.
Here are the top three key takeaways of actionable advice I gathered from our conversation:
1️⃣ Cultivate an Experimental Culture: Louise emphasized the importance of fostering a ‘culture of experimentation’ as a foundational step. During her tenure at The Wall Street Journal, Louise initiated the “Innovation Portal” for submitting ideas and established “Momentum Meetings” for regular check-ins on what failed and what showed promise across teams.
2️⃣ Create a Data-Oriented Mindset: Louise believes in the foundational role of building a data-centric organization, extending beyond just the analytics department. Product designers need to implement meaningful data collection opportunities, while journalists should proactively consider integrating dynamic audience metrics in their reporting. As Louise put it, “Data is everyone’s job.”
3️⃣ Utilize AI to Empower, Not Replace: She cautions newsrooms to focus AI efforts on their public service mission - not job replacement. AI should empower journalists to bear witness, uncover hidden truths, and connect with communities; the fundamentals of quality journalism remain unchanged even in an AI-driven world.