The American newspaper giant Gannett Inc. has temporarily halted its use of artificial intelligence (AI) for reporting on high school sports due to a negative response on social media.
One specific article, featured in the Columbus Dispatch, described a high school football game as “an intense athletic contest.”
Gannett ai-generated sports stories
A Gannett spokesperson informed Axios, the first outlet to report this news, stating, “We are temporarily suspending this local AI sports initiative. We are continually assessing vendors as we refine our processes to ensure that all the news and information we provide meets the highest journalistic standards.”
Steven Cavendish, the President of Nashville Public Media, was one of the individuals who drew attention to the criticized articles. He shared screenshots of several articles on Twitter, describing some of them as “poorly written.” When asked whether it would be better to have no reports at all, he responded, “No reports would be preferable. These articles are just a summary of the game statistics.”
One screenshot even revealed what appeared to be coding, with placeholders like [[WINNING_TEAM_MASCOT]] and [[LOSING_TEAM_MASCOT]] inserted into an article about an Ohio boys’ soccer game, humorously noting, “The scoreboard displayed no action.”
All these articles concluded with a note stating, “This news brief is powered by ScoreStream, the leading platform for fan-driven sports results and discussions.”
These articles were generated using software developed by LedeAI, one of the major newsroom automation companies. They rely on data submitted by the public, and the resulting articles are entirely automated, with no human involvement.
One significant critique is that these articles typically lack player names, a crucial aspect of local and high school sports coverage.
It remains unclear whether editors reviewed the sports articles published by the Columbus Dispatch before they were posted. However, they were updated after gaining attention on social media, as reported by Insider.
Other publications that also utilized AI-generated articles included the Des Moines Register, the Arizona Republic, Florida Today, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as reported by Insider.
The Gannett spokesperson defended the use of automation and AI, stating, “In addition to adding hundreds of reporting jobs across the country, we are experimenting with automation and AI to develop tools for our journalists and provide content for our readers.” However, this statement has been met with skepticism, especially considering the company’s recent rounds of layoffs, which occurred three years after its acquisition by Gatehouse Media.
Gannett is not the first media outlet to face challenges with AI-generated content. Earlier this year, tech news site CNET published a series of articles containing duplicated phrases and factual errors, prompting the suspension of its AI-generated content efforts.
In summary, Gannett has temporarily suspended its use of AI-generated articles in high school sports reporting following criticism on social media. This move has raised questions about the role of AI in journalism and the need to maintain high editorial standards, especially in local and community reporting.