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G/O Media publishing AI-generated stories despite employee outcry


A media company that runs several sites including Jezebel, the Onion and Gizmodo is publishing mistake-ridden stories written by AI bots despite an outcry from staff over what they slammed as “computer-generated garbage.”

G/O Media heads are doubling down on the eyebrow-raising practice and plan to publish additional AI-written articles soon, according to an internal memo obtained by Vox.

The machine-generated stories first appeared on multiple G/O sites earlier this month with bylines like “Gizmodo Bot.” One such story — a chronological list of Star Wars movies and shows — published on Gizmodo contained more than a dozen errors, including some items that were not in the correct order.

Editors and reporters did not see the articles before they went live and were only notified that the content would be published hours before they went online, the Washington Post reported.

G/O Media’s editorial director Merrill Brown told employees that the AI content would not replace work being done by writers and editors and admitted that “there will be errors,” according to the newspaper.

He further told staffers that AI bots “alone (currently) are not factually reliable/consistent,” in another company memo seen by Vox.


G/O Media Editorial Director Merrill Brown said the company has no plans to stop publishing AI-written stories.
LinkedIn

Email sent from Merrill Brown to editorial staff at G/O Media.
Brown informed employees of the decision in an internal email.

The union representing G/O employees quickly bashed the leadership’s decision.

“The hard work of journalists cannot be replaced by unreliable AI programs notorious for creating falsehoods and plagiarizing the work of real writers,” GMG Union wrote in a statement. “Our newsrooms have spent decades building trust with audiences — introducing computer-generated garbage undermines our ability to do our jobs, erodes trust in us as journalists, damages our brands, and threatens our jobs.”

Other news sites that tried out AI-written content — including CNET and Buzzfeed — quickly abandoned the experiment after the stories were full of errors and inaccuracies.


Story page for a bot-written article.
Several articles appeared on G/O Media sites with bylines credited to bots.
Gizmodo

But Brown told Vox Tuesday that G/O Media has no plans to stop publishing stories written and produced by bots — seemingly ignoring his employees’ complaints.

“It is absolutely a thing we want to do more of,” he said, adding that top editors will look over the content before publishing moving forward.

G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller went a step further.

“I think it would be irresponsible to not be testing [AI],” Spanfeller told Vox.

A G/O journalist told the outlet that the bot-authored stories are “a disaster for employee morale.”

Another staff writer said the company is just looking for another cost-cutting measure.

“This is a not-so-veiled attempt to replace real journalism with machine-generated content,” the employee told Vox.



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