Gannett Pauses Use of AI-Written Stories After Brutal Social Media Pushback

U.S. newspaper giant Gannett Inc. has paused using artificial intelligence to report on high school sports after some of the stories were savaged on social media.

One such story, published in the Columbus Dispatch, described a high school football game as “a close encounter of the athletic kind.”

“This local AI sports effort is being paused,” a Gannett spokesperson told Axios, which first broke the news. “We are continually evaluating vendors as we refine processes to ensure all the news and information we provide meets the highest journalistic standards.”

Steven Cavendish, president of Nashville Public Media, was among those who called attention the stories in question.

The newsman posted screenshots of several stories on X, calling some of the pieces “terrible,” and in response to one query about whether it would be better to have no reports at all, said, “Nothing would be preferable. This is a box score in word form.”

Another screenshot showed what appeared to be coding — with [[WINNING_TEAM_MASCOT]] and [[LOSING_TEAM_MASCOT]] — inserted into a report about an Ohio boys soccer game that also revealed, “The scoreboard was in hibernation.”

The stories all bear a note at the end stating, “You’re reading a news brief powered by ScoreStream, the world leader in fan-driven sports results and conversation.”

The stories were generated through software developed by LedeAI, one of the major newsroom automation companies, Axios reported. They use data on games summited by the public and the auto-generated stories do not involve human reporting.

One big criticism is that they generally don’t include player names, one of the key draws of local and high school sports coverage.

It’s not clear if editors reviewed the sports pieces published by the Columbus Dispatch before they were posted, Axios reported. They were updated after they began circulating on social media, Insider noted.

Other publications that had used the AI-generated stories included the Des Moines Register, the Arizona Republic, Florida Today, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Insider found.

The Gannett spokesperson said that, “In addition to adding hundreds of reporting jobs across the country, we are experimenting with automation and AI to build tools for our journalists and add content for our readers.”

The comment is disingenuous after the company went through a at least two rounds of layoffs last year, three years after the USA Today publisher was acquired by Gatehouse Media.

Gannett is not the first media outlet to stumble using AI-generated products. Earlier this year, tecn news site CNET published a series of stories with plagiarized phrases and factual errors, before it paused its efforts.

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