Gannett Halts AI-Written Sports Recaps After Readers Mocked the Stories

From a Washington Post story by Daniel Wu headlined “Gannett halts AI-written sports recaps after readers mocked the stories”:

Readers visiting the Columbus Dispatch’s high school sports section to catch up on their teams might have encountered a new sportswriter with a prolific byline — and an odd way with words.

The writer dubbed a football game between central Ohio’s Westerville North and Westerville Central a “close encounter of the athletic kind.”

Another story about a game between the Wyoming Cowboys and Ross Rams described a scoreboard that “was in hibernation in the fourth quarter.” When Ayersville High School staged a late comeback in another game, a write-up of their win read: “The Pilots avoided the brakes and shifted into victory gear.”

The articles weren’t written by a reporter, but by Lede AI, an artificial intelligence company that uses game scores to generate automated sports recaps for newsrooms. Lede AI’s stories in the Dispatch, which generally provided the outcomes of high school games and the scoring after every period of play, were blasted on social media as having a stilted tone and using bizarre turns of phrase.

The mockery appeared to have an impact. Gannett halted the use of Lede AI to write sports stories, Axios reported Monday. Lede AI-generated articles in the Dispatch and other Gannett-owned papers were appended with a notice that they’d been updated “to correct errors in coding, programming or style.”

Gannett called the deployment of Lede AI an “experiment” in automation to aid its journalists and add content for readers.

“We have paused the high school sports Lede AI experiment and will continue to evaluate vendors as we refine processes to ensure all the news and information we provide meets the highest journalistic standards,” the statement read.

Lede AI did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday evening.

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