Gannett Pulls Plug on AI-Generated Sports Recaps Following Backlash


Gannett, a newspaper chain, has temporarily suspended the use of an AI tool for writing high school sports dispatches, after it made several major mistakes in some of its papers. One of the most notable errors was captured by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, which showed the article starting with: “The Worthington Christian [[WINNING_TEAM_MASCOT]] defeated the Westerville North [[LOSING_TEAM_MASCOT]] 2-1 in an Ohio boys soccer game on Saturday…” The reviews had been criticized on social media for being repetitive, lacking important details, using unusual language and generally sounding like they were written by a computer with no real knowledge of sports.

According to CNN, other Gannett outlets, such as the Louisville Courrier Journal, AZ Central, Florida Today and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, have recently published similar stories written by LedeAI. Many of the articles contain similar phrases, describing “high school football action,” noting when one team “took victory away from” another, and describing “cruise-control” wins. Additionally, many of the stories repeated the date of the games multiple times in a few paragraphs.

In response, Gannett has ceased its experiment with LedeAI in all of its local markets. This news was initially reported by Axios. The AI tool incident follows Gannett’s December layoffs, in which 6% of its news division were let go.

The poor quality of the AI-generated stories was highlighted on social media. For example, one Dispatch article from August 18th was shared on Twitter for its robotic style, lack of player names, and the use of awkward phrases such as “close encounter of the athletic kind.” Jon Greenberg, a senior columnist for The Athletic, sarcastically remarked “I feel like I was there!” Another story about the Wyoming Cowboys and the Ross Rams described a scoreboard that “was in hibernation in the fourth quarter.” When Ayersville High School staged a late comeback, the write-up of their win read: “The Pilots avoided the brakes and shifted into victory gear…”

In a statement, Gannett called the deployment of LedeAI an “experiment” in automation to help its journalists and provide content for readers. LedeAI CEO Jay Allred said in a statement to The Post that he believes automation is part of the future of local newsrooms, and that LedeAI allows reporters and editors to focus on “journalism that drives impact in the communities they serve.”

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