The brain drain among mainstream media outlets is very real, so much so that a liberal and longtime struggling sports magazine has replaced its reporters with fictitious bylines and AI-driven news stories.
Sports Illustrated was caught by Futurism posting biographies of reporters who don’t exist and using headshots of nonexistent headshots made by artificial intelligence programs. One “writer” named Drew Ortiz appeared to be a young white man smiling vacantly for the camera, when in actuality the photograph was made for sale on an AI website and promoted as a “neutral white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes.”
The outlet even accompanied the headshot with a fantasy biography about Ortiz.
“Drew has spent much of his life outdoors, and is excited to guide you through his never-ending list of the best products to keep you from falling to the perils of nature,” it read. “Nowadays, there is rarely a weekend that goes by where Drew isn’t out camping, hiking, or just back on his parents’ farm.”
Sources who spoke with Futurism said the creepy fake reporters aren’t the only counterfeit concoction being churned out by Sports Illustrated; even some of the articles were written by bots.
“There’s a lot. I was like, what are they? This is ridiculous. This person does not exist,” one person said.
“At the bottom [of the page] there would be a photo of a person and some fake description of them like, ‘oh, John lives in Houston, Texas. He loves yard games and hanging out with his dog, Sam.’ Stuff like that,” they continued. “It’s just crazy.”
“The content is absolutely AI-generated,” the second source said, “no matter how much they say that it’s not.”
Asked for comment, The Arena Group, which has licensed Sports Illustrated since 2019, denied the allegations and blamed a contractor for the confusion.
“Today, an article was published alleging that Sports Illustrated published AI-generated articles. According to our initial investigation, this is not accurate. The articles in question were product reviews and were licensed content from an external, third-party company, AdVon Commerce. A number of AdVon’s e-commerce articles ran on certain Arena websites. We continually monitor our partners and were in the midst of a review when these allegations were raised. AdVon has assured us that all of the articles in question were written and edited by humans. According to AdVon, their writers, editors, and researchers create and curate content and follow a policy that involves using both counter-plagiarism and counter-AI software on all content. However, we have learned that AdVon had writers use a pen or pseudo name in certain articles to protect author privacy — actions we don’t condone — and we are removing the content while our internal investigation continues and have since ended the partnership.”
That’s a pretty jagged pill to swallow considering some of the articles contained truly soulless pieces of writing, such as one Ortiz piece that described volleyball as a sport that “can be a little tricky to get into, especially without an actual ball to practice with.”
Another byline on stories attributed them to Sora Tanaka, whose photograph also appeared for sale on the AI headshot marketplace. Her biography was equally vapid.
“Sora has always been a fitness guru, and loves to try different foods and drinks,” read Tanaka’s bio. “Ms. Tanaka is thrilled to bring her fitness and nutritional expertise to the Product Reviews Team, and promises to bring you nothing but the best of the best.”
Despite denials from The Arena Group, all questionable content was taken down from Sports Illustrated’s website after Futurism began asking questions.