Google shows off AI "news article" writer to newspapers, leaving newspapers to wonder who did the fact-finding, investigating and reporting

Google showed off an AI tool for writing news articles to The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. It pitched the AI as a 'helpmate,' reports the Times [archive].

The tool, known internally by the working title Genesis, can take in information — details of current events, for example — and generate news content, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the product.

One of the three people familiar with the product said that Google believed it could serve as a kind of personal assistant for journalists, automating some tasks to free up time for others, and that the company saw it as responsible technology that could help steer the publishing industry away from the pitfalls of generative A.I.

The problem was immediately apparent: it's not doing any investigation, interviewing, or reporting. What use it is to major newspapers, for which such fact-finding is the cost center, not the writing? How does it know?

Some executives who saw Google's pitch described it as unsettling, asking not to be identified discussing a confidential matter. Two people said it seemed to take for granted the effort that went into producing accurate and artful news stories.

Google's is a culture of analyzing, tracking and reproducing media that already exists, so it's funny to imagine it didn't understand that it was pitching a tool to rewrite news that's already been published to the people who paid for it in the first place. "Is the Content not simply typed?" a Googler perhaps said, tilting their head like a bemused alien.

Assuming some level of self-awareness beyond this, though, the "pitch" could have boiled down to a couple of interesting dilemmas:

1) "This is a tool we could give to social media users, to any web publisher that wants it. Let's discuss many areas of our relationship."

2) "You used computers to get rid of most pre-press and layout labor 35 years ago. Those guys were half your payroll! Now you can use it to start getting rid of editorial labor too. We'll give others that competitive advantage if you don't want it."