Good News, Bot News: Google Testing AI Tool That Writes News Stories

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Finally, it’s my turn to send out a Google news alert.

No sooner had I broken down all the AI tools that publishers could ever want last week than Google went and showed off its own game-changing AI tool, directly to the publishers themselves.

That’s the word at least from The New York Times, one of a number of news organizations to whom Google reportedly pitched an AI product capable of taking in current-event data and generating news stories. The article’s anonymous sources said The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal’s owner News Corp were amongst the organizations who saw demonstrations of the tool, known internally as Genesis.

“One of the three people familiar with the product said that Google believed it could serve as a kind of personal assistant for journalists, automating some tasks to free up time for others, and that the company saw it as responsible technology that could help steer the publishing industry away from the pitfalls of generative A.I.,” The New York Times reports.

On the receiving end of the pitch, however, it appears not all were receptive, with executives describing Google’s pitch as unsettling and taking for granted “the effort that went into producing accurate and artful news stories.”

In a statement to The Verge, Google spokeswoman Jenn Crider said Google is still “in the earliest stages of exploring ideas” with publishers (“especially smaller publishers”) and the assistance that AI can give journalists could be used for headlines or writing in different styles. 

“Our goal is to give journalists the choice of using these emerging technologies in a way that enhances their work and productivity, just like we’re making assistive tools available for people in Gmail and in Google Docs,” the statement says. “Quite simply these tools are not intended to, and cannot, replace the essential role journalists have in reporting, creating, and fact-checking their articles.”

And while there have been numerous examples of sloppy AI generation used in lieu of journalism, this report of Google’s Genesis comes shortly after a recent announcement from Associated Press and OpenAI about a collaborative licensing deal that would allow ChatGPT to use AP’s archive for training its models (and allow AP to “leverage OpenAI’s technology and product expertise.”). In their announcement, AP said the two companies are examining “potential use cases for generative AI in news products and services,” but no specifics were offered and, at the moment, AP doesn’t use generative AI in its stories.

The New York Times acknowledges the “grappling” that many news organizations are going through, and says that many, including The Times itself, have “notified employees that they intend to explore potential uses of A.I. to see how it might be responsibly applied to the high-stakes realm of news, where seconds count and accuracy is paramount.”

If reports from the Genesis meetings are any indication, they won’t be changing their tagline to All The News That’s Quick To Produce anytime soon.


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