One of my graduate students was a sport writer focusing specifically on high school sports in a small town. So, I had to share the news about Gannett Newspapers pulling back from their use of AI to write their news stories. Gannett, of course, is not loved by small newspapers and local journalists as they take over and big layoff usually follow. What suffers when that happens is the local news, and it is local news that led to the pull back.
The Columbus Dispatch‘s story about a local soccer match opened with this grabber of a lede:
The Worthington Christian [[WINNING_TEAM_MASCOT]] defeated the Westerville North [[LOSING_TEAM_MASCOT]] 2-1 in an Ohio boys soccer game on Saturday.
Opinion: High schoolers can do what ai can’t, Scott simon, npr
It was, not surprisingly, written by AI.
Scott Simon, who penned the NPR editorial, suggests that the news organization could hire high school students to cover what is, and my grad student backed him up on this, a crucial part of small town life. As I wrote recently, local communities are an essential part in many people’s lives and AI has not yet, at least, found it niche.
On a side note, I introduced my students to the Internet Archive and its Wayback Machine last week. The offending news story from The Columbus Dispatch had been taken down but CNN was able to link to the archived version. At least, Gannett had given credit to LedeAI, the bot that wrote what is on its way to being a classic of sports writing.
Took a long leisurely drive to Abingdon, Virginia, in far southwest Virginia, one of my favorite parts of the state. I listened to a book and then music on the radio. As I have for some time, I avoided the news. And, I’ve been avoiding writing about the news as well. But, I worry that posts about gardening and reading might be considered frivolous in our chaotic, stridently divided world. On the other hand, these are the things that help me from plunging into despair. Another mass killing, another black person gunned down, another bigoted law passed. I am even having trouble getting through the 15-minute Up First podcast from NPR that I used to enjoy as I made my morning coffee. There seems to be nothing to celebrate and many things to grieve.
This article from The New York Times provided some perspective on how I might move forward. It quotes a variety of experts including one of my favorite meditation teachers, Sharon Salzberg. In fact, I wrote about Salzberg’s book, Real Change, in this same context. Salzberg herself took some criticism when, in response to families being separated at the border, she organized a world-wide loving-kindness meditation. How can meditation change anything? She replied that she was ONLY meditating but that meditation gave her the strength to battle the negative forces. And, she was one of the Buddhist leaders who openly condemned the practices on the border. This interview gives you a taste of Salzberg at her best.
The image is of a collage using one of my favorite poems, The Peace of Wild Things, from Wendell Berry. It hangs over my desk. Nature is one of my antidotes to despair. I hope you can find your own.