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Leonard Shifrin and Louise Dulude Canadian Social Policy Emerging Reporter Fund Supports Reporting Project on the Role of AI on Indigenous Communities

4 min read

By Brier Cook
Photos by Léo Solano

Louise Dulude, whose generous donation led to the creation of the Shifrin-Dulude Emerging Reporter Award, and Ali Al Ashoor, the inaugural recipient of that award.

Thanks to the support of a generous donor, graduating Carleton journalism student Ali Al Ashoor will continue pursuing his months-long reporting project looking at the policy solutions for how artificial intelligence has misrepresented, under-represented, and even distorted Indigenous communities in Canada.

The endowed fund intends to support upper-year or graduate journalism students pursuing reporting and research projects on topics of progressive social policy and the pursuit of equitable decision-making.

Leonard Shifrin and Louise Dulude.

The fund is named after Louise Dulude and her late husband Leonard Shifrin who dedicated their life’s work to reducing poverty and advancing women’s issues. It is one of eight new donor-supported Emerging Reporting Funds created by the Carleton University School of Journalism, which aim to kickstart the careers of upper-year and graduating students who wish to pursue reporting projects in diverse areas such as social justice, science, and in-depth reporting.

Al Ashoor is the first student to receive support through the fund and he plans to use it to answer an important question: What role does artificial intelligence (AI) play in reconciliation?

Al Ashoor came to Canada in 2018 to begin a new life and to study journalism and history at Carleton. His passion for social justice reporting began in 2011 when he witnessed first-hand the inaccuracies in news coverage of the Arab Spring protests in his home country of Saudi Arabia.

In November 2023, Al Ashoor took Carleton’s Introduction to Indigenous-Settler Encounters course where he and his classmates were told to ask the free version of Chat GPT – the AI chatbot – questions about Indigenous history as part of a class exercise. Al Ashoor was surprised to discover that the information the chatbot relayed rarely considered Indigenous Peoples, cultures, or history.

Al Ashoor’s reporting project on the role of AI in building a renewed relationship with Indigenous Peoples began from there. He started by spending over a month asking Chat GPT questions about Canada’s colonial history and interviewed Canadian studies instructor Samantha Stevens and Montreal-based Abundant Intelligences Senior Program Manager, Vanessa Raymond, on the topic.

In his initial reporting, he found that, because Chat GPT answers user prompts based on data available from the internet, it often relayed inaccurate information about Indigenous communities.

Al Ashoor applied to the Leonard Shifrin and Louise Dulude Canadian Social Policy Emerging Reporter Fund knowing his future reporting would require extensive research and visits to Indigenous communities.

“The missing part of my research is the day-to-day lives of Indigenous Peoples,” said Al Ashoor. “My moral and ethical duty as a journalist is to go and report from the ground.”

Celebrating Louise Dulude’s Generosity and the Future of Journalism

On May 15, 2023, the Carleton University School of Journalism hosted a celebration in the Reader’s Digest Resource Centre to honour Louise Dulude’s exceptional generosity and to hear from Al Ashoor about his reporting plans.

Canadian Senator Kim Pate delivered a keynote speech on the important role journalism has historically served and will continue to play in creating a more equitable society.

Professor Allan Thompson, Louise Dulude, Ali Al Ashoor, and Senator Kim Pate.

“It is vitally important that we have access to journalists in the context where the narrative that otherwise exists is dictated by those who have the most power, resources, and other forms of privilege,” said Senator Pate. “It strikes me that at a time when the trust in our public institutions is diminishing because we have failed to meet the needs of those who have the least, there’s an opportunity for us to work together to address those issues, highlight those issues, and demand better and more.”

Allan Thompson, Director of Carleton’s School of Journalism and Communication introduced Senator Pate and explained how the award will allow promising students and new graduates, like Al Ashoor, to hit the ground running and gain the professional experience needed to produce meaningful work without the financial burden often involved in pursuing this type of focused, intensive reporting.

This award and seven other Emerging Reporter Funds are a part of The Future of Journalism Initiative (FJI) – a collaborative research hub at Carleton dedicated to advancing knowledge and understanding of journalism practice in society.

“Days like this are a real bright spot for those involved in journalism education,” said Thompson. “It’s enormously valuable to have donors like Louise who are willing to step up and help us find resources to add to what’s available for some of our most promising students as they head out into a really challenging marketplace,” said Thompson.

Al Ashoor also spoke directly to Carleton faculty, staff, friends, and Louise Dulude herself about his future reporting plans. Al Ashoor said he intends to use a portion of the funds to visit Indigenous communities this summer, attend a conference on the topic of AI and journalism in Toronto, and purchase Chat GPT Plus to examine how it differs from the widely available free version.

Finally, he’s going to produce a story that he hopes will change the way policymakers, governments, and tech giants think about their role in disseminating and perpetuating misinformation with and through AI.

“I would like to thank Louise Dulude for your years of dedicated work and for having the vision to create an award like this. For young journalists like me heading into an uncertain industry, it’s important to have this kind of support,” said Al Ashoor. “I hope that my work can help to continue your dedicated years of advocacy.”

To learn more about the Leonard Shifrin and Louise Dulude Canadian Social Policy Emerging Reporter Fund, as well as the other Emerging Reporter Funds developed through The Future of Journalism Initiative (FJI), please visit FutureFunder.ca.

Monday, June 3, 2024 in General, Journalism News, News
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