In May 2022, the Finnish public broadcaster Yle noticed an audience they weren’t reaching. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians displaced by the war had moved to Finland. Yle offered news in Finnish, Swedish, English, and Russian. Now, they wanted to offer it in Ukrainian. But it wasn’t easy finding Finnish journalists who could speak the language.
“When the war started, every media company was interested in those people,” says Jarkko Ryynänen, project manager for the Yle News Lab. Instead of having staff rewrite stories in a new language, Yle turned to software to translate. The team built a tool that ran stories through four different types of translation software and presented the results to staffers who knew both languages. It allowed Yle to publish stories in Ukrainian at a rate that would be impossible if the news were written and reported in the language from the beginning, the way many articles for Yle’s Russian and English services are. “With the computer, this couple of people are so much more powerful,” Ryynänen says.
Yle using AI to translate its articles is one of the more upbeat stories about artificial intelligence (AI) in newsrooms in a time that’s full of dire predictions for the technology’s impact on journalism.