AddThis SmartLayers

Editor issues AI warning after robot fails to write accurate NIBs

Phil Creighton cropAn editor has issued a warning about the use of artificial intelligence after a robot produced inaccurate information and cited “fictitious” sources after being asked to write NIBs for his newspaper.

As an experiment, Reading Today editor Phil Creighton tasked an AI tool with writing an 80-word piece about a concert taking place in the Berkshire town, but it returned with an inaccurate list of of which songs were due to be performed.

It also compiled an inaccurate what’s on list of forthcoming concerts in the area, inventing venues, dates, and bands, as well as quotes from fictitious people.

Speaking to HTFP, Phil warned that far from being a tool for journalists,  AI could make journalists “look like fools.”

Phil, pictured, initially detailed the issues with the experiment in a Twitter thread earlier this week.

He wrote:  “AI has potential to be hugely helpful for information gathering for journalists. At the moment, I compile the what’s on/gig guide manually and it takes around 10-12 hours to do.

“To have AI automate that task would be a real timesaver. But it’s not feasible right now.

“If AI is just going to make things up to fill in the gaps, how can it be trusted?”

Speaking to HTFP, he added: “Being a print dinosaur who came in as hot metal was on its way out, I’ve always been interested in how technology can assist journalism.

“Filing copy on the scene using a mobile phone still feels like magic to an ageing Catsweazle, and is incredibly helpful.

“AI will have a place in the newsroom, and it’s good to explore its capabilities, but it’s not the answer.

“We’ve been experimenting with it to help write NIBs and downpages for a few weeks.

“They need heavy subbing, often throwing up inaccurate information, ignoring requests to write in a neutral tone, going beyond requested word counts, and frequently missing the point. They also churn out copy as unappetising as a mealy pudding.

“To see it invent venues, dates, and bands, as well as quotes from fictitious people is alarming. Without checks and balances in place, this technology won’t be a tool for the journalist, it will make the journalist look like a fool.”

Publishing giant Reach announced earlier this year it was experimenting with AI technology, while Newsquest has recently created a new role with a specific remit to expand its use – including using it to create local content.

A Falmouth Packet column written by the ChatGPT tool last month warned local journalists they could “be replaced by machines”.