The Gannett newspaper chain has taken a step back from using an artificial intelligence tool to write stories about high school sports. This decision comes after the AI technology produced some embarrassing blunders in articles, causing a stir in at least one of the papers under Gannett’s umbrella.
Recently, the Columbus Dispatch, one of Gannett’s papers, published a series of high school sports reports created by an AI service known as LedeAI. Unfortunately, these reports didn’t exactly hit the mark and ended up making waves on social media for all the wrong reasons.
One example that caught people’s attention was a story that began with an awkward sentence: “The Worthington Christian [[WINNING_TEAM_MASCOT]] defeated the Westerville North [[LOSING_TEAM_MASCOT]] 2-1 in an Ohio boys soccer game on Saturday.” It’s safe to say that this didn’t make for pleasant reading. Thankfully, the page has since been corrected.
These AI-written reports became the subject of mockery online due to their repetitive nature, lack of essential details, strange language choices, and an overall tone that felt as if they were penned by a computer with zero grasp of sports.
Gannett wasn’t the only one affected by this. Other Gannett-affiliated newspapers like the Louisville Courrier Journal, AZ Central, Florida Today, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also fell victim to publishing similar subpar stories crafted by LedeAI in recent weeks.
What’s peculiar is that many of these stories shared identical passages, talking about “high school football action,” mentioning how one team “took victory away from” another, and describing certain wins as being on “cruise-control.” To make matters worse, they even repeated the date of the games multiple times within just a few short paragraphs.
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Acknowledging the issues, Gannett has decided to halt its experiment with LedeAI across all the local markets where the service was being used. A spokesperson from Gannett stated that their goal is to provide top-notch news and information, and they’re exploring ways to incorporate automation and AI while maintaining high journalistic standards.
Jay Allred, the CEO of LedeAI, expressed remorse that the articles produced for Gannett newspapers had shortcomings like errors, repetition, and awkward phrasing. However, the company quickly took action to rectify the problems once they became apparent.
Allred believes that content automation is a significant aspect of the future of local newsrooms. He noted that their service fills in information gaps and allows reporters and editors to focus on impactful journalism that truly matters to the communities they serve.
As of the most recent update, several sports stories in the Dispatch that were generated by the AI tool have been revised and annotated with a note acknowledging the errors and improvements. This stumble with the AI tool follows Gannett’s decision to lay off 6% of its news division in December, which led to the loss of hundreds of jobs.
It’s also a reminder that many news outlets are grappling with how to navigate the swift advancements in AI technology. CNET, for instance, had to temporarily pause its own AI-generated story experiment after facing challenges with accuracy. Meanwhile, some media outlets are taking measures to restrict access to certain AI software to prevent their content from being misused.