A week after being outed for stealthily using AI to produce high school sports reports and publicly “pausing” the project, mega-publisher Gannett has reportedly had to recheck each and every post the AI had written. Did we really learn nothing from CNET’s ignoble AI escapades in January?
Gannett operates a number of regional and national publications including USA Today, The Arizona Republic and The Detroit Free Press. The company devised its “Lede AI” as a means of automating the droll work of summarizing the box scores of local high school sports leagues — a task the AI proved wholly incapable of. One such article read:
The Hardin County Tigers defeated the Memphis Business Execs 48-12 in a Tennessee high school football game on Friday. Hardin County scored early and often to roll over Memphis Business 48-12 in a Tennessee high school football matchup.
“High school reporting is different from covering college or professional sports,” On anonymous Gannett sports writer told Yahoo News. “And high school reporting can go underappreciated, but it’s extremely important. You’re covering a community.”
“You’re not writing for as big of an audience, but you’re writing for a very, very specific one,” they added. “Family members — uncles, parents, people who care that your story has their kids’ names. They’re looking for keepsakes, things they can remember from their kids’ high school career.”
In response to the criticism, Gannett has elected to “pause” its use of the AI for the time being though the company made no mention of abandoning its use entirely. The company has also reportedly rechecked and updated every AI-written post for factual accuracy. The blurb above now simply reads: “The Hardin County Tigers defeated the Memphis Business Execs 48-12 in a Tennessee high school football game on Friday.“
Gannett’s dalliance with AI writers is the latest in a growing industry trend that has seen Buzzfeed shutter its newsroom entirely in favor of AI-generated content, Google develop a genAI for writing news posts and Apple build a foundational rival to ChatGPT. Even the AP is adapting its approach to accommodate the new technology.