AI at Burda
02/10/2023

Burda School of Journalism: An AI Roundup

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AI is taking many companies at Burda by storm right now – also the Burda journalism school. A text about early successes and a clear line in the field of AI.

The Burda journalism school is known as a creative workshop and an innovation lab of the BurdaVerlag. Since last year, the big wave of new technology has also reached the journalism school and turned the daily routine, the curriculum and the view of the future of journalism upside down – even the young journalists are going through an AI revolution.

"Many full-blooded journalists are afraid of contact and fear the new technology. At the Burda journalism school, we realized early on that we had to jump on the bandwagon right away," says Nikolaus von der Decken, head of the school, who has embraced AI and the changes it brings from the start. Together with manager Myriam Feißt, he drew the logical conclusions for himself and built everything around AI: ChatGPT, Midjourney, AISSIST and other tools in daily use, a fully AI generated trainee project, this year's final trainee presentation about and with AI.

How did journalism school approach the topic of AI?

Niko: "We quickly realized that it would not be enough to be able to operate the most important tools. It seemed much more important to us that the trainees understand and use AI in the context of the entire workflow, not as a "writing aid". That's why we integrated AI into all seminars. In some seminars it plays a major role, in others a minor one. Like, for example, in the basic journalistic writing seminars or in the reporting seminar. Here, the trainees learn the journalistic craft without AI. Tools like ChatGPT or DeepL are only briefly introduced here as tools for post-editing texts."

And how do the trainees learn to use AI tools?

Myriam: "We have integrated dedicated AI days in the curriculum that focus exclusively on the use of the most important tools. Our in-house instructors Pascal Deutschländer and Sandra Zendel teach the trainees how to use ChatGPT, Midjourney and AISSIST. In the video seminar, AI tools will be taught and trained, and the speech training will also take a look at avatars (including Synthesia) and AI voice cloning (Eleven Labs). And so that runs throughout the curriculum."

Where are the training limits of AI ...

Niko: "What AI doesn't do – at least not for us – is replace core journalistic skills like writing or researching. What it should do, on the other hand, is optimize processes and take over routines. It is also very good at supporting creative processes. The Volos should therefore learn to keep asking themselves: what work can AI do for me or make easier?"

... And how do you deal with the dangers?

Myriam: "We are constantly discussing with the trainees, answering their questions and talking about their reservations and fears, especially in seminars such as "Ethics". In the legal seminar, we explain, among other things, the corporate guidelines and why we label AI-generated content as such.

How do you keep up to date on the topic of AI?

Niko: "We follow the media and are in constant dialogue with other Burda units, for example BurdaForward. Or also with our ex-trainees, Mortimer Korsch and Sandra Zendel, who are graduating from journalism school this summer/fall and are already among the top AI experts at BurdaVerlag. Volos can also present new tools or report on how they use AI in their everyday editorial work at any time."

How do the trainees perceive the use of AI?

Niko: "In retrospect, it's striking that they seemed less overwhelmed by the big AI hype than many other colleagues. They were actually very open to the technology right from the start. With the necessary skepticism, but also without blinkers. Many have been using AI in their everyday editorial work for a long time. I think that's great. Openness to new technologies has a long tradition at Burda School of journalism and is one of our distinguishing features."

What AI successes are you most proud of?

Myriam: "We're pleased that we got involved with AI in time to have our final presentation this year built around and created with AI. And a special highlight: the media brand by Sandra Zendel, Mortimer Korsch and Andreas Groo, which facilitates the generation of ideas for the media brands. And currently, a Volo team is working on an AI-powered podcast. The new cohort is also invited to develop AI projects."

An AI-specific media brand already exists – what exactly is behind it?

Sandra: "The media brands take up a crucial part of the traineeship. Weeks usually pass from the first idea to the launch of the media brands, and all the talents go through an intensive process in small groups. We have set ourselves the goal of simplifying this process with AI and have built a media brand generator. This is intended to provide support from the megatrend to the target group to the first prototype. The topic is made more and more concrete and tangible in many small steps. In close coordination with the lecturers, we implemented the project in the school block and repeatedly received support from experts from the AI and IT sectors. So far, we have mainly had test runs, but this summer we were also able to support a team from the following year with the generator. We are still in the development phase and very excited to see how the project progresses."
 

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© Jigal Fichtner

© Jigal Fichtner

© Jigal Fichtner

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