Google Pitches AI Newswriting Product to New York Times, Washington Post

Google is making the rounds of major news organizations pitching a product that uses artificial intelligence to produce news stories, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The Times, The Washington Post and News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, have gotten demonstrations of the tool, which is dubbed “Genesis.”

Genesis can take in information like the details of events and generate news stories, the Times reported, citing three people familiar with it.

Google spokeswoman Jenn Crider confirmed to The Times in a statement that “in partnership with news publishers, especially smaller publishers, we’re in the earliest stages of exploring ideas to potentially provide A.I.-enabled tools to help their journalists with their work.”

New York Times

One source said  Google pitched the tool as a sort of “personal assistant for journalists,” that could automate some tasks, ostensibly creating time for other efforts. “The company saw it as responsible technology that could help steer the publishing industry away from the pitfalls of generative A.I.,” the report said.

Multiple news organizations large and small – from The Associated Press to local news sites are already testing the use of AI in their news report while others, including The Times and NPR, have started to explore potential uses.

Some news executives who saw the demonstration, however, called it “unsettling,” the report said, and two suggested that it “seemed to take for granted the effort that went into producing accurate and artful news stories.”

One huge concern with AI and news is the potential spread of misinformation, a particular danger if the stories are published without careful editing and fact-checking. Some of the early efforts at using AI for news content have also resulted in significant factual errors and widespread plagiarism.

Google’s Crider defended the project. “Quite simply, these tools are not intended to, and cannot, replace the essential role journalists have in reporting, creating and fact-checking their articles,” she said in her statement. “Instead, they could provide options for headlines and other writing styles.”

Journalism commentators see both positives and negatives to the development.

“If this technology can deliver factual information reliably, journalists should use the tool,” said Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York. “If, on the other hand, it is misused by journalists and news organizations on topics that require nuance and cultural understanding, then it could damage the credibility not only of the tool, but of the news organizations that use it.”

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