Sports Illustrated Union Says It’s “Horrified” by Publication of AI-Generated Writers

Yesterday, we reported that Sports Illustrated — the esteemed magazine once considered the standard for sports journalism — has been churning out content under the bylines of fake authors with AI-generated headshots.

In the wake of the fracas, Sports Illustrated‘s publisher The Arena Group issued a statement blaming the content on a contractor called AdVon and pushing back against our source’s claim that the content itself was AI-generated, in addition to the authors’ headshots.

Shortly thereafter, the human members of the Sports Illustrated Union made their own feelings about the bungled AI effort clear.

In a scathing statement, the union declared that it was “horrified” by the report — and “if true,” the union added, “these practices violate everything we believe in about journalism.”

“We deplore being associated with something so disrespectful to our readers,” the statement continued. “We demand answers and transparency from Arena Group management about what exactly has been published under the SI name.”

“We demand the company commit to adhering to basic journalistic standards, including not publishing computer-written stories by fake people,” the statement continued. “We want to be very clear: What is described in this Futurism story does not represent the hardworking journalists who make up the SI Union. For nearly 70 years, SI staff members have held themselves to the highest possible ethical standards.”

Some Sports Illustrated staffers weighed in as well.

“Along with basic principles of honesty, trust, journalistic ethics, etc. — I take seriously the weight of a Sports Illustrated byline,” wrote the site’s Emma Baccellieri. “It meant something to me long before I ever dreamed of working here. This report was horrifying to read.”

The union’s demand for clarity is perfectly reasonable. Again, this is a magazine that for decades reigned as the eminent publisher of sports news, features, and always-iconic covers; it housed work from the likes of literary giants ranging from William Faulkner to John F. Kennedy.

To be clear, The Arena Group is now blaming AdVon for the content and saying that “pseudo names” were used to protect the identities of real writers. As many people pointed out online, that doesn’t make very much sense.

“The idea that ‘Sora Tanaka’ and ‘Ben Ortiz’ were just nome de plumes for real writers who wanted to publish important journalism like ‘How to get into volleyball’ but felt they needed to remain anonymous is too stupid to even contemplate,” wrote No Laying Up editorial director Kevin Van Valkenburg, referencing the fake names with AI-generated headshots that we spotlighted in our original story.

As for The Arena Group’s claim that AdVon told it that no AI was used to actually generate any content? Our sources say differently, and we’ll have a followup story on that soon.

“As members of the SI Union, we are proud to be part of that legacy and work every day to protect it,” the staffers added. “We expect management to do the same.”

The Sports Illustrated writers and editors were careful to note that the statement was drafted, edited, and delivered by: “The Humans of the SI Union.”

Disclosure: Futurism’s parent company, Recurrent Ventures, previously worked with AdVon in 2022 via its partnership to distribute select content on third-party e-commerce platforms. This content was written by Recurrent’s contributors. Presently, Recurrent maintains a business relationship with them to test Commerce content internationally for select brands (of which Futurism is not one). AdVon content has never been published on Futurism or any of Recurrent’s websites.

More on Sports Illustrated: Sports Illustrated Published Articles by Fake, AI-Generated Writers

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