When Arena Group, the publisher of Sports illustrated and multiple other magazines, announced less than a week ago that it would lean on artificial intelligence to help spawn articles and story ideas, the CEO promised that it intended to use generative power alone for good.
Then, in a wild twist, an AI-generated article it published less than 24 hours later turned out to be full of errors.
The article in question, published in Arena Group’s Men Journal under the dubious “Men’s Fitness Editors” byline, purported to tell readers “What all men should know about low testosterone.” The opening paragraph breathlessly added that the article had been “reviewed and fact-checked” by a supposed flesh-and-blood editor. But on Thursday, a real fact-check of the piece came courtesy of Futurism, the science and tech outlet known for recently catching CNET with its AI-generated pants just a few weeks ago.
The outlet unleashed Bradley Anawalt, the chief of medicine at the University of Washington Medical Center, over the 700-word article, with the good doctor digging up at least 18 “inaccuracies and untruths.” The story contained “just enough closeness to the scientific evidence and literature to ring true,” Anawalt added, “but there are many false and misleading notes.”
According to Jon Christian of Futurism, the outlet’s editor-in-chief, it was when they brought the errors — which ranged from the bot confusing technical medical terms to making broad and imprecise generalizations — to Arena Group that someone quietly changed the content of the article. started to adjust. By the time the dust settled, the new article was more than a hundred words shorter than the original, according to an archived snapshot.
It also now included a brief editor’s note at the end, acknowledging some, but not all, of the errors.
Only then did an Arena spokesperson send Futurism a statement, which read in part: “These early experiments are a work in progress. Based on these lessons and ongoing monitoring, we will continue to refine our use of these tools as part of our workflow, which is always anchored in editorial oversight.”
In a message to The Daily Beast on Thursday afternoon, Christian said, “I just can’t believe people Men Journal saw the chaos at CNET and thought, “Let’s do the same.” It seems to me that there is an absolute lack of shame.”
“And to be clear,” he added, “some of this new AI technology is pretty cool! We just see media execs jumping the gun really bad and embarrassing themselves terribly in the process.
One such media executive is Arena Group CEO Ross Levinsohn who evangelized The Wall Street Journal last week that while his media group counted on AI, it would be used as a tool, not a replacement, for human-generated journalism. “It’s not about ‘getting AI content out and doing as much as you can,'” he said. “Google will penalize you for that and more is not better; better is better.”
Notably, one of Levinsohn’s earlier gigs was as publisher of the Los Angeles Times under Tronc, the company now known as Tribune Publishing and remains notorious for emptying newsrooms. Although Arena Group has taken over Men Journal only after the previous owner fired the magazine’s entire editorial staff in 2020, as futurism noted, does the masthead currently contain just five staffers. It was not immediately clear who, if any, is responsible for overseeing testosterone coverage.
The Arena Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.
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