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    Sunday, July 21, 2024

    I’ll take real human beings for 600, Alex

    Pardon the idealism here for a moment. But I’m with Kipling’s idea of a newspaper’s true vocation: “I keep six honest serving men; they taught me all I knew; their names are what and why and when; and how and where and who.”

    Now comes the tricky part: How much longer will real, live, human reporters be required to keep serving the “six honest men?” Seems some newspapers have resorted to Artificial Intelligence (“AI”) to inform their readers.

    It is called “Lede AI,” the brainchild of the Richland Source, a newspaper in Ohio. Lede AI’s mission per its website:

    “Lede AI was founded in 2018 inside a small local newsroom as an experiment. Reporters, editors and product designers worked together with developers to build a tool that didn’t yet exist. Our goal was to cover more stories, faster, more accurately than we ever thought possible … and it worked.

    “Our purpose is simple and massive: To guide our clients through a radically transformative time, and in doing so, give them the superpowers they need to serve readers and communities better than ever before.”

    As you might surmise: Losing my job to something artificial - something actually created in a newsroom, no less - does not compel me to sing spirituals. And so I went in search of Lede AI in action. The following is an Artificial Intelligence game story from a high school football game appearing last week in the Columbus Dispatch:

    “The Westerville North Warriors defeated the Westerville Central Warhawks 21-12 in an Ohio high school football game on Friday.

    “Westerville North edged Westerville Central 21-12 in a close encounter of the athletic kind at Westerville North High on Aug. 18 in Ohio football action.

    “Westerville North opened with a 7-0 advantage over Westerville Central through the first quarter. The Warhawks trimmed the margin to make it 7-6 at halftime. Westerville North jumped to a 21-6 lead heading into the final quarter.

    “The Warriors chalked up this decision in spite of the Warhawks' spirited fourth-quarter performance.”

    I know what you’re thinking: Hemingway, right?

    I mean, the turning of the phrase “close encounter of the athletic kind” is positively Shakespearean. And all the names of the kids who played in the game and scored touchdowns are making scrapbooks across Ohio.

    Straight up: Can somebody make this stop? I’ve grown used to doom and gloom. Newspapers are swirling the bowl. But this is insulting even in an industry used to being insulted.

    Lede AI’s website claims it can help sports departments “with professional and high school sports reporting at scale, writing hundreds of unique news briefs in seconds and publishing them to your website automatically. We use thousands of human-written variations so your content never looks the same and reads beautifully.”

    It does?

    It makes me wonder how many martinis the editors at the Columbus Dispatch guzzled before ever allowing that kind of drivel into their publication.

    Lede AI also claims that artificially generated stories have led to massive growth in audience development at some newspapers. They can cover more things and be in more places. And who knows? Maybe there’s a better use of AI in other places than what you just read in the Columbus Dispatch.

    Still, I’ll take human beings for 600, Alex. There is no way something artificial can capture the human accomplishment of the game-winning hit, the game-winning basket or the game-winning touchdown pass better than another human who was there live and could provide interviews and color.

    There is no way something artificial can properly hold local government accountable. Do you know of a corrupt politician? Local leader you suspect of being a pedophile? Good luck calling a computer. Maybe soon, there will be no humans at the newspaper to investigate.

    Turns out Trump was right about something. He finally got his “fake news.” Artificially generated baloney. Or worse, the byproduct of something fed into a computer that may only suit, service, reinforce and intensify their audiences' predispositions and prejudices.

    A wise man once said that news “is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress.”

    I’d rather leave the responsibility of educating, enlightening and informing to a human being.

    This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro

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