AI News Is Going to Get Worse Before It Gets Better

Image via MidJourney

As much as we like to boost AI in journalism, there’s one corner of the industry that is definitely going to need a little housecleaning. 404 just posted an interesting story about how Google is starting to surface AI-generated versions of news stories in Google News. This means users are now getting AI-written dross alongside human reporting and, in some cases, those synthetic stories are getting more traction.

From the post:

The presence of AI-generated content on Google News signals two things: first, the black box nature of Google News, with entry into Google News’ rankings in the first place an opaque, but apparently gameable, system. Second, is how Google may not be ready for moderating its News service in the age of consumer-access AI, where essentially anyone is able to churn out a mass of content with little to no regard for its quality or originality.

“I want to read the original stories written by journalists who actually researched them and spoke to primary sources. Any news junkie would,” Brian Penny, a ghostwriter who first flagged some of the seemingly AI-generated articles to 404 Media, said.

And here’s the hilarious part. In one case, the AI-generated article didn’t quite get the topic of the original article. For example, check out this piece on Distractify:

The AI translated the piece into something decidedly stupider:

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Garbage Out, Garbage Forever

If you’ve used Generative AI in the last few months, you’ll know that it’s gotten simultaneously better and worse. Hallucinations and weird formulations are mostly gone. The writing it produces looks human and even features some human-like characteristics. But there is a great deal of repetition, a lot of cliche, and a lot of mistakes. But, as we wrote before, we don’t know what the AI doesn’t know.

Further, a lot of these AI farms are using outdated models, which result in “war of stars” articles. Using OpenAI is expensive and to do this kind of rewriting at scale is cost prohibitive (I’ve tried.) That said, where there’s a (spammer’s) will, there’s a way.

This mess will get worse before it gets better. Humans reward algorithms with attention and those same algorithms will keep showing us what it thinks we want. When most of that content is AI-written, we’ll start to get pretty angry and maybe — just maybe — we might start paying human writers again.

The Media Copilot is hosting a meetup on Feb. 1 in New York City! Join us for an evening of conversation over drinks with journalists, PR professionals, and executives about AI’s role in media and the news. RSVP to reserve your spot.


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