ONA announces the AI in Journalism Initiative: Shaping the industry’s understanding of artificial intelligence and its potential

Expansive programming to drive experimentation, collaboration and business sustainability

By on February 5, 2024

The Online News Association is excited to announce a sweeping initiative aimed at supporting journalists and newsrooms as they navigate the rapidly evolving landscape of artificial intelligence (AI). With the new AI in Journalism Initiative, launched with financial support from Microsoft, ONA will connect digital innovators and newsroom leaders with year-round programming to build practical skills, knowledge and the capacity to swiftly harness opportunities presented by the latest shifts in AI. Microsoft will also contribute access to experts, technology and support.

For 25 years, ONA has been at the forefront of technological innovation in journalism, surfacing the trends that newsrooms need to understand and delivering the resources they need to embrace change and succeed. Amid a firehose of news about declining revenues, mass layoffs, technology fears and uncertainty, understanding AI’s enormous potential is critical for the sustainability of journalism. With a long history as digital journalism’s go-to destination for training, convenings and strategic guidance, ONA is uniquely positioned to drive and inform the industry’s focus on opportunities.

ONA’s AI programming will drive knowledge and strategy in news organizations through these key efforts in 2024:

  • Practical training: Multi-part series of virtual and in-person learning sessions examining specific ways AI tools have been incorporated into newsrooms, including applications for audience engagement, headline generation, elections reporting, data journalism and growth strategies. The series, developed and led by UIC senior lecturer Mike Reilley, begins Feb. 28 with an Introduction to AI Tools.
  • AI Mini-Lab Sessions: Energetic, expert-led opportunities to play with a specific AI tool and explore use cases, starting with a prompt-writing session.
  • AI Innovator Collaborative: Monthly small-group gatherings for ONA members who are already experimenting with AI tools. Members will meet online on the second Tuesday of each month and in person at the 2024 Online News Association Conference (ONA24), happening Sept. 18-21 in Atlanta, plus connect through the ONA Slack Community between these events.
  • Convenings and critical conversations: Driving the discussions that will inform the industry’s use of these technologies. ONA will engage those leading AI efforts in journalism and technology companies, as well as explore key questions on areas such as ethics, copyright, equity and bias.

Virtual trainings will be free for ONA members.

“As the industry finds itself at another critical inflection point, it’s important that journalists and newsrooms understand the potential of AI — as an opportunity and a disruptive force,” said LaSharah S. Bunting, CEO and Executive Director of ONA. “The AI in Journalism Initiative is the next chapter in ONA’s commitment to ensure that the news industry not only understands emerging technologies, but also has access to the tools, education, collaboration opportunities and more that enable innovation and resilience.”

“By working with the Online News Association, we are reaching journalists at all stages of their AI adoption journeys, and help in exploration, experimentation and innovation to support newsroom sustainability,” said Noreen Gillespie, Journalism Director with Microsoft’s Democracy Forward program.

This slate of opportunities is just the start. Momentum from these efforts lays the foundation for ONA to develop additional programming that’s responsive and quickly evolves to meet the journalism community’s needs. Looking beyond technology adoption and experiments, the AI in Journalism Initiative will ultimately create a measurable positive impact on both editorial operations and business sustainability.

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Learn more about the AI in Journalism Initiative