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How Sports Journalism Is the New Battleground for AI

Drew Ortiz and Sora Tanaka have two things in common. The first is that they are prolific fun-loving sports writers for the online version of Sports Illustrated magazine. Tanaka’s bio features a fit young Asian woman who “loves to try different foods” while Ortiz enjoys spending weekends “back on his parents’ farm.” The second is that they are both completely made up, with profile photos purchased from a site that sells AI-generated headshots. 

In a recent investigation, the profiles were discovered to be fake and linked back to the magazine’s publisher The Arena Group, which has seemingly offered bylines to similarly fake writer profiles on other properties they own for AI-generated articles. Earlier this week, there was also the revelation that at least one sideline reporter at NFL games would completely make up quotes from a head coach who skipped doing an obligatory half-time interview. 

Both have sent the sports journalism world into a tailspin this week, and inspired others across media to openly wonder whether the often boring and formulaic world of sports writing will be the first domino to fall in the quest to generate passable AI content that can replace the need for the lowest rung on entry-level journalism. Why should sports publications be hiring real journalists when stories can be easily made up or fabricated with hardly anyone noticing?

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