As one of the leading authorities on sports, many people across the globe have turned to Sports Illustrated (SI) for their honest and transparent coverage of sporting events across the globe. Operating with the infamous Swimsuit Issue as their largest seller, many have gone after the magazine over leaving out little-known sports or objectifying women over the years. Yet through it all, SI has rolled with the punches.
On November 27th, Futurism broke a news story about SI author Drew Ortiz. With a simple biography on the website, he seemingly didn’t exist away from their magazine. His profile shows a seemingly mid-30s white male with short brown hair. Indistinguishable from dozens of other journalists, he would easily blend in anywhere he went. Except he had never been anywhere. Sure, his bio photo was for sale on an AI headshot-generating website. As well as his basic biography.
Speaking with someone who wished to remain anonymous, Ortiz isn’t the only AI author at SI. There’s a lot…I was like, what are they? This is ridiculous. This person does not exist. 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. It’s just crazy.”
I looked into many of his articles, and they are incredibly stiff. Robotic to the point where they sound like even someone who has never played the sport would tell you they are absurd. In one, Ortiz claims that volleyball isn’t an easy sport to get into. Then it goes on to say that it’s even worse when there is no ball to practice with.
This is the kind of inference that any editor worth their salt would have caught and corrected without hesitation. A second anonymous source with SI confirmed that as well. This is a practice that they have been doing for some time too. Over the summer, when Ortiz was first discovered, he was quickly gone. Erased from the history books as if he didn’t exist. Later, if you went to his page, you would have been redirected to Sora Tanaka.
Again, another cookie-cutter biography for Tanaka and a headshot from the same website Ortiz was featured on. Once called out on her, SI then deleted her as well when Futurism contacted them for the article. Originally giving them a no-comment response, their legal team got together and crafted a very wordy, but articulate response to having their journalistic integrity put into question.
“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.”
Peppering that insult with some injury, they went on to blame AdVon for hiring writers who chose to use pen names or pseudonyms. They would be ending the relationship over it because they believed it violated their journalistic integrity.
The fact of the matter is, for SI, the damage was done some time ago. For years they were a reputable publication and website, but then once President Obama got elected, the publication took a hard left turn. Pivoting in a very politically correct way, they embraced the “woke” culture and swallowed the Kool*Aide whole.
This has been the source of their pain, and to stem the tide, they have opted for copy bots to work for pennies on the dollar compared to human writers. Writers who put passion and emotion into their work. The kind of work that tells you that we’re real people. As real people, we already deal with enough bots, we don’t need to be reading from them too.