Discover how The Baltimore Times is using AI to revolutionize journalism and provide better service to its audiences.

Articulated Insight – “News, Race and Culture in the Information Age”

“AI is the assistant I prayed for,” says Paris Brown, associate editor of The Baltimore Times.

While many in the media fret over the threats posed by artificial intelligence — and real threats exist — Brown has welcomed AI as a tool for helping her small team to serve audiences better. Brown presented during a half-day AI strategy session at LMA’s recent Local News Summit in Austin, Texas. She told the audience AI is a powerful assistant for small newsrooms, and shared five ways The Baltimore Times is leveraging AI to create more and better audience experiences.

AI as editorial assistant

Paris Brown, associate editor of the Baltimore Times

“I am fearless” when it comes to AI, says Brown. “I use it as a personal assistant, every day.”

Since The Baltimore Times has such a small staff, her most common daily use is as a personal editor, to check spelling, syntax and grammar on all kinds of communication from email to other written materials. She also uses it to generate first drafts of emails, create outlines for talks and presentations, and even for developing project timelines and milestones.

“It gives me a starting point” to overcome writer’s block, says Brown, who cautions that the key to using AI as a personal assistant is “it’s the human plus AI,” not AI alone. “You have to put in correct information!” Brown has “trained” her chatbot on The Baltimore Times’ mission and values and always checks that any AI generated responses reflect those values.

A recent project recounting the history of Black bicyclists shows how AI can assist in brainstorming and can be “programmed” to reflect a publication’s mission and values. Both the project title, “Pedals of Resilience,” and the project description “a journey through time, grit and triumph” were generated by AI with inputs from The Baltimore Times staff.

AI for image generation

The Baltimore Times has adopted the image-generation tool DALL-E for a variety of imagery for its publications. Using AI-generated images solves several problems for the small publication.

First, it can be both difficult and costly to clear the rights to imagery. In the past The Times, like many other publications, had to settle with copyright owners for use of photos. By using DALL-E, notes Brown, “no one’s going to call us on Monday.”

In addition, it’s hard to find just the right photo for each story and use case. With DALL-E, The Baltimore Times team is able to create imagery that is tailored to each particular story angle and tone.

“The cover and inside story for all of our coverage of this year’s MLK anniversary were generated by AI,” notes Brown.

AI for audience engagement experiences

The Baltimore Times has also used AI to create more engaging audience experiences. The Pedals of Resilience project included multiple AI-supported elements, including a Virtual Reality Experience where audiences could “ride along” with Major Taylor and other historic Black cycling greats.

The team also used AI to create an augmented reality experience where people could have their picture taken and be inserted into a personalized “cover” of The Baltimore Times, alongside these legendary Black cyclists.

AI for audience development and platform extension

The Baltimore Times has also used AI to enable the publication to expand its reach onto new platforms and reach new audiences.

The Times has covered health and health inequities for three decades. Brown notes that one of the barriers to serving and reaching audiences for these topics is access. Thanks to funding from Commonwealth Fund and Knight Foundation, The Times now offers its reporting on health inequities using Zing AI to offer audio versions of its text stories, since illiteracy is one of the barriers to health information.

AI for greater diversity and inclusion

Experts in artificial intelligence warn that one of the problems with AI is that it generates its outputs based on its inputs. That means, for example, that AI “trained” on web content that reflects historic inequities is likely to perpetuate those inequities.

The Baltimore Times has turned that around and, with its Zing AI audio content extensions, has created a set of inclusive avatars and voices that allow its audiences to select from multiple diverse “personas” that better reflect and represent the audiences they seek to serve.

“You can pick whoever you want to read the story to you,” says Brown. “It makes the voice authentic for the Black community,”

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