Gannett to pause AI experiment after botched high school sports articles

230620100712 gannett corporate headquarters file hp video

Newspaper chain Gannett has paused the use of an artificial intelligence tool to write high school sports dispatches after the technology made several major flubs in articles in at least one of its papers.

Several high school sports reports written by an AI service called LedeAI and published by the Columbus Dispatch earlier this month went viral on social media this week — and not in a good way. The reports were mocked on social media for being repetitive, lacking key details, using odd language and generally sounding like they’d been written by a computer with no actual knowledge of sports.

As of Wednesday, several Dispatch sports stories written by the service had been updated and appended with the note: “This AI-generated story has been updated to correct errors in coding, programming or style.”

The Columbus Dispatch isn’t the only Gannett paper that had been testing AI-written sports reports. CNN identified several other local outlets, including the Louisville Courrier Journal, AZ Central, Florida Today and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that have all published similar stories written by LedeAI in recent weeks.

Many of the reports feature identical language, describing “high school football action,” noting when one team “took victory away from” another and describing “cruise-control” wins. In many cases, the stories also repeated the date of the games being covered multiple times in just a few paragraphs.

Gannett has paused its experiment with LedeAI in all of its local markets that had been using the service, according to the company. The pause was earlier reported by Axios.

“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,” a Gannett spokesperson said in a statement. “We are continually evaluating vendors as we refine processes to ensure all the news and information we provide meets the highest journalistic standards.”

LedeAI did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN.

The AI tool debacle comes after Gannett axed hundreds of jobs in December when it laid off 6% of its news division.

It also comes as many news outlets grapple with how to handle the rapid advancement of AI technology.

CNET earlier this year also paused an experiment using AI to write stories after it was forced to issue multiple corrections on AI-generated reports. Meanwhile, some other outlets have blocked access to software from OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT, in an effort to prevent their content from being used to train its AI models.

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