When Arena Group, the publisher of Sports Illustrated and multiple other magazines, announced—less than a week ago—that it would lean into artificial intelligence to help spawn articles and story ideas, its chief executive promised that it planned to use generative power only for good.
Then, in a wild twist, an AI-generated article it published less than 24 hours later turned out to be riddled with errors.
The article in question, published in Arena Group’s Men’s Journal under the dubious byline of “Men’s Fitness Editors,” purported to tell readers “What All Men Should Know About Low Testosterone.” Its opening paragraph breathlessly added that the article had been “reviewed and fact-checked” by a presumably flesh-and-blood editorial team. But on Thursday, a real fact-check on the piece came courtesy of Futurism, the science and tech outlet known for recently catching CNET with its AI-generated pants down just a few weeks ago.
The outlet unleashed Bradley Anawalt, the University of Washington Medical Center’s chief of medicine, on the 700-word article, with the good doctor digging up at least 18 “inaccuracies and falsehoods.” The story contained “just enough proximity to the scientific evidence and literature to have the ring of truth,” Anawalt added, “but there are many false and misleading notes.”
According to Futurism’s Jon Christian, the outlet’s human managing editor, it was when they brought the errors—which ranged from the bot confusing technical medical terms to making broad and inaccurate generalizations—to Arena Group that someone began quietly tweaking the article’s content. By the time the dust settled, the new article was more than a hundred words shorter than the original, according to an archived snapshot.
It now also contained a brusque editor’s note at the end, acknowledging some, but not all, of the errors.
Only then did an Arena spokesperson send Futurism a statement, which read in part, “These early experiments are a work in progress. Based on these learnings and ongoing monitoring, we will continue to refine our use of these tools as part of our workflow, which has been and will always be anchored in editorial oversight.”
In a message to The Daily Beast on Thursday afternoon, Christian said, “I just can’t believe the folks running Men’s Journal saw the chaos at CNET and thought, ‘Let’s do the same thing.’ It seems to me that there’s an absolute lack of shame on display.”
“And just to be clear,” he added, “some of this new AI tech is pretty cool! We’re just seeing media execs jump the gun very badly and embarrass themselves horribly in the process.”
One such media exec is Arena Group’s CEO, Ross Levinsohn, who evangelized to The Wall Street Journal last week that, though his media group was banking on AI, it would be used as a tool, not a substitute for human-generated journalism. “It’s not about ‘crank out AI content and do as much as you can,’” he said. “Google will penalize you for that and more isn’t better; better is better.”
One of Levinsohn’s previous gigs was notably as publisher of the Los Angeles Times under Tronc, the company now known as Tribune Publishing that remains notorious for gutting newsrooms. Though Arena Group acquired Men’s Journal only after its previous owner laid off the magazine’s entire editorial staff in 2020, as Futurism pointed out, its masthead currently lists only five staffers. It was not immediately clear which, if any, is responsible for overseeing testosterone coverage.
The Arena Group did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.