Posted in OUR NEWS

journalismAI.com – ‘a head start on the next disruption’


Our new companion site, journalismAI.com, tracks advances in artificial intelligence and how they apply to the practice of journalism. We want journalists everywhere to have a head start on the next disruption.

We offer an independent look at the capabilities, limitations, and influences of AI as they apply to journalism — part what to look for, part ‘look at this.’ We follow the whole conversation, daily, from news reports around the world, commentary in leading periodicals, recommendations in reports, ideas from industry panels, talks, books, or academic articles, through to findings in research labs that may influence events ahead.

We track developments in four areasAI in the newsroom, AI advances, ethics, and impacts on journalistic trust. The site is international in scope and updated often. There is a primer on AI fundamentals and a blog.

See journalismAI.com. We also offer briefings in artificial intelligence and news practices.

Posted in CONTINUOUS CHANGE

The special needs of transformation in media companies


When changing outcomes means changing culture, the dots need to connect all the time.

Media companies and news organizations dislike change even more than the norm. It’s curious because ‘new’ is part of the media DNA.

We come from media. We’ve managed many change projects in media companies and seen them through to successful conclusions. We’ve been there when things went wrong and, from it, we’ve learned how to get the process back on track.

Our experience is that it takes more than incentives, a coalition, and quick wins. Those can help, but by themselves, they leave the potential for backslides and reversions. Media transformation that’s sustainable over time comes after at least four extra pieces are in place:

  1. Before starting: determining change readiness
  2. While underway: connecting the dots between values and vision, and what’s working and what isn’t and why
  3. Start to finish: helping the audience be part of the change, and keeping an eye on the external environment. Are there new offers? Shifts in audience behaviours?
  4. Before starting and after the main part is done: over-communicating with staff, providing evidence-based findings with both internal and external examples.

It takes continual adaptation. Forcing a change to stay on track simply because it was planned that way is counterproductive. Knowing the tolerance for change before starting takes the guesswork out of adjustments. Keeping people informed continually is essential: critical thinkers become critics when they don’t know enough about what’s going on around them.

No two change projects are ever alike. But it helps to know the telltales to watch for.

OUR DELIVERABLES

  • Project design and validation
  • Change readiness assessment
  • Facilitation of sessions at key stages
  • Issues management
  • Identification or design of training programs as required
  • Guidance to management, or direct project leadership, as warranted
  • Progress reporting at regular intervals, or by milestones, or both

DURATION

  • 3 – 18 months
  • Elapsed time is influenced by the project scope and by emerging circumstances
Posted in STRATEGY SUPPORT

Helping find better workflows


Better practices today become the best practices of tomorrow.

We work directly with teams to help them identify better ways of doing things. We gather their ideas and organize the results. The focus is 100% practical: things to keep, things to lose, what to try, what can be improved.

We know how content teams work: the rhythm, the language, the values, and the culture. We’ve seen lots of new things tried before, many that made a positive difference and some that didn’t. We provide context for both.

We focus on what’s practical and measurable. We nudge for new and encourage learning by experimentation.

Think of the times people say, ”someday, when we have a moment…”? These sessions create that moment. Afterward, things move faster.

OUR DELIVERABLES

  • Design and prepare session(s)
  • Facilitate the group
  • Prepare and provide a written report of outcomes. The report can be used afterwards by the group as an ongoing reference and checklist for implementation.
  • Review report with commissioning manager(s)

DURATION

  • Group sessions typically are 1/2 day or 1 day each
  • Some objectives may involve multiple sessions or multiple groups
  • Variability is by scope and in the availability of participants

Posted in LEARNING

Middle management skills


Middle managers are expected to point the way forward while following signposts set by others.

THESE 1×1 LEARNING SESSIONS are designed for the unique circumstances of leading in the middle tier. Individuals work with a confidential third-party who functions as a silent partner with ‘been there’ experience.

The focus is on improving core skills, such as:

  • Managing, leading and following at the same time
  • Communicating with others in a way that connects
  • Holding meetings people want to attend
  • Implementing plans when you don’t understand the objective, or do understand but disagree
  • Having difficult conversations
  • Creating proposals and presentations that stand out
  • Leading employees in other locations

TAKEAWAY 

Topics are weighted to individual objectives. It’s like having a personal trainer for work. Every session combines principles and examples, customized to each situation.

TIMING 

  • Suitable any time
  • 1×1 sessions are by phone or video call

DURATION

  • 1×1 calls are 60-90 minutes each over 8-12 weeks
  • Time and days by individual preference

GROUP OPTION

  • An alternate version is available in a group workshop format
  • Groups of 6, 8, or 12 people for 1.5 days
  • Sessions can be arranged at your office or offsite
  • We work internationally
Posted in LEARNING

News Practices with AI: 2019


We distill what artificial intelligence means for journalism in order to act

These briefings are for news leaders looking to enhance and crystallize their understanding of artificial intelligence systems in order to plan next steps.

The material is drawn from up-to-date studies and real practices. We combine findings in research labs and implementations in newsrooms around the world. The briefings are by Andrew Cochran, former head of news strategy for CBC and now editor of journalismAI.com, the online resource that tracks developments in AI and journalism.

Today

Algorithms are being used to gather news, present news, look for news, and more. Some AI machines are helping news writers with tips or research or rapid transcription. Some are generating deep fakes, showing authority figures saying false things, while others simulate trusted personalities to create AI-driven ‘virtual anchors’ that deliver the news. AI tools are expected to keep becoming more sophisticated, perhaps exponentially.

Tomorrow

Future systems might create a renaissance in journalism, surfacing facts and patterns previously unfathomable, making stories more relevant for audiences, handling routine coverage so well that human storytellers can spend more time on human stories.

Or, algorithms may challenge traditional ideas of journalistic authority, upending legal and ethical foundations and changing the dynamics of competitive advantage. It could equal or exceed the scale of the last disruption, known as ‘the crisis.’

Either way, news practices with AI will influence how news work is done and who does what. There will be impacts in:

  • workflows
  • recruiting
  • standards & ethics
  • training
  • the speed of reporting
  • new relationships between storytellers and technologists
  • new ways of storytelling and new kinds of stories to tell

Four modules

We break down the material into manageable chunks. The sessions are in four modules, offered as stand-alones. Used consecutively, they create the basis for an action plan tailored to the individual circumstances of a newsroom.

  1. Fundamentals of how AI works – concepts, terminology, how to critically assess emerging developments
  2. Practices with AI in newsrooms – present uses in gathering and presentation, the force multiplier effect, choices to augment/replace, decisions to build/buy, implications for recruiting and workflows
  3. Possibilities and perils of algorithms – identifying and using datasets, knowing algorithmic bias, understanding appreciation of algorithm results, implications for standards & ethics, tactics to increase accountability
  4. Practical steps forward – developing an action plan for the specific needs and aspirations of a newsroom

Options

  • Strategy workshop format: All four modules over three days – groups of 4-8 people, resulting in an action plan
  • Group orientation format: Modules one to three in one day – combination of briefing and engaged conversation
  • 1×1 discussion format: Modules one to three in one-hour sessions over 6-8 weeks – tailored to the needs and situations of individual leaders
  • Standalone format: Any one of the modules, by situation

Suitable for

  • Publishers/news executives
  • Senior editors
  • Journalism leaders

Note: this is not a course about coding, nor about data journalism, and instead about concepts and influences of AI as they apply to news organizations

Takeaways

  • Critical assessment of the benefits and limitations for news practices with AI in daily operations
  • Practical steps tailored to respective newsrooms
  • Watchlist for new developments
  • Go-forward familiarity with the terms and concepts of AI systems

Locations

  • Workshops and group formats can be conducted at your business, or we can arrange an offsite venue nearby
  • One-on-one format is by video call or phone
  • We work internationally

Bookings currently available for August 2019 and beyond

See our site for journalismAI.com

Posted in STRATEGY SUPPORT

White papers | decks | frameworks


We crystallize ideas and plans so they can be clearly communicated.

We canvas the necessary people, gather the available ideas, and workup position papers, supporting briefs, presentation decks, and keynote speeches. For example:

  • The rationale for a change process
  • Making a case for amendments to policy or funding 
  • Advocating a point of view in public forums 
  • Building consensus with a contentious issue
  • On-going practices to make improvements 

OUR DELIVERABLES

  • Research from materials and discussions with key staff
  • First draft (text or deck or both)
  • Second draft (text or deck or both)
  • Third draft (ready for use)

DURATION

  • Varies by situation
Posted in ETHICS

Developing & updating codes


Codes help organizations meet what’s ahead.

Most places have certain ways of doing things and standards they wish to maintain. A code puts that in writing. It presents ways to respond as circumstances emerge. It makes expectations clear to everyone, both inside and outside the organization.

A code tells people the standards of service they can expect. Often, a code will include a means to complain if it seems like promises haven’t been met, together with an explicit process for reviewing complaints. It’s a way an organization says here’s what we intend to do, and here’s what you can do if you think we’ve fallen short. A best practice is presenting complaints that have been resolved and how the process worked.

The net effect increases trust. With it can come greater loyalty to the organization.

  • Codes of practice typically lay out specific do’s and don’ts that apply to the work of the organization. There may be codes for the whole company, for senior teams, or even participants in standing meetings. Sometimes, they’re for specialized units, for example, newsrooms within a larger media company.

  • Codes of ethics express values and aspirations. Instead of specifics of what to do, a code of ethics describes how to approach what to do.

  • Some places have one or the other, others have both. Or they may preface a code of practice with its underlying ethical principles.

Codes are dynamic documents. Expectations and standards may change, perhaps from recent events, or findings in law, or new possibilities. For example, a growing number of organizations working with artificial intelligence have recently developed codes to guide their research and new products.

We’re accustomed to using codes in day-to-day operations:

  • Developing new codes of practice or codes of ethics
  • Refreshing existing codes to reflect new practices or circumstances
  • Delivering workshops for staff about new/updated code provisions and how they can be applied
  • Briefing senior management or boards about matters arising from codes, acting as a trusted third party

DELIVERABLES: Determined by project

TIMING: Determined by project

Posted in CONTINUOUS CHANGE

Transformation re-starts


The longer a transformation stays idle, the harder it is to get going again.

Stopping part-way through squanders the groundwork already invested. It denies opportunities anticipated in the original plan. Stopping also reduces the chances for success in the next change project.

Regaining momentum requires a concerted effort. Missteps reinforce resistance, retrenchment, and the negativity that may have already put the project in park. The way forward needs to be clearly and universally communicated until traction is assured.

We get things moving again, either advising from the sidelines or in a front-line role. We have several prior instances to draw upon, including changes in presentation and formats, substantial shifts in workplaces and workflows, and implementing new operating priorities.

We begin with where things stand without dwelling on ‘what went wrong’. Instead, we focus on practical steps forward.

OUR DELIVERABLES

  • Resumption of transformation in a way that will sustain over time
  • Step-by-step advice or direct project management, as situations warrant

DURATION

  • 3 – 12 months
  • High degree of variability, influenced by the project scope and by emerging circumstances
Posted in STRATEGY SUPPORT

Facilitating senior teams


We help senior teams figure out their next moves.

Most often all the ingredients for the next plan are already in the group. They simply need to be surfaced and organized in a way that draws from everyone’s experience and doesn’t get pre-empted by the needs of the day. We can help. We’ve worked in senior teams and know how they function.

We prod for clarity and push towards measurability. We understand that when the stickies and dots are put away, the needs of the organization resume right away. We’re committed to delivering tangible outcomes for immediate and longer-term implementation.

We can be a trusted third-party when difficult conversations are needed. Surfacing sensitive topics can be more productive when directed by a person not involved in the circumstances.

Our facilitation services are best used for:

  • Setting new directions, priorities, and targets
  • Building alignment on an initiative or theme
  • Determining and framing changes/reductions
  • Working through sensitive issues

OUR DELIVERABLES

  • Session design and preparation (including venue details)
  • Facilitation of session
  • Debrief with commissioning manger(s)
  • Written report/summary, as needed

DURATION

  • Typical sessions are 1/2 day, 1 day, or 2 days
  • Varies by scope
Posted in STRATEGY SUPPORT

Listening for better


The experts in an organization walk in the door every day.

Their observations and ideas are highly relevant because they are grounded in everyday practice. Talking with them and listening for what can be done better identifies course corrections that make a difference. It also surfaces high-value practices that are important to preserve in the midst of change.

Our focus is on identifying solutions, of any size, in a series of conversations, either one-on-one or in groups. We help people detach from next-hour needs and think of the bigger picture. All comments are unattributed.

Often small things can make a big difference. Big ideas emerge, too. Either way, the results add from-the-floor validity to a plan that’s in development or speed-up an implementation that’s underway.

OUR DELIVERABLES

  • Conduct interviews with staff members, and if desired, external stakeholders
  • Facilitate one or more group sessions (if required)
  • Provide written findings with recommendations 
  • Present report to commissioning manager(s)

DURATION

  • Typically completed within 2-4 weeks
  • Varies by the numbers of people involved and their availability