Google is secretly showing off an AI tool that can produce news stories to major newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

The tool, dubbed Genesis, can digest public information and generate news content, according to reporting by the New York Times, in yet another sign that AI-generated — or at least AI-facilitated — content is about to flood the internet.

Google is stridently denying that the tool is meant to replace journalists, saying it will instead serve as a "kind of personal assistant for journalists, automating some tasks to free up time for others."

Media executives, however, were taken aback, describing the tech giant's pitch as unsettling, telling the NYT that it "seemed to take for granted the effort that went into producing accurate and artful news stories."

Other publications have dived headfirst into using AI to generate news stories, with news including CNET, Gizmodo, and BuzzFeed publishing AI-generated articles that often turned out to be rife with errors and plagiarism.

Journalists were appalled at the news.

"Goodness gracious," tweeted The Information founder Jessica Lessin. "Let it be said, journalists don't need Google to write their articles as 'a personal assistant.' And anything that Google (or any AI) could write has no real original reporting value."

"This could be incredibly dangerous for journalism as a business," tweeted Kansas City-based radio editor Gabe Rosenberg," especially if Google acts to juice its own search results to prioritize AI content."

"And worse yet is what these large media companies are already doing to screw over actual human workers," he added. "I do not like this at all!"

Having a company as influential as Google enter the fray will likely only add to this momentum, piling more pressure on media outlets to adopt the tech.

Google maintains that the goal isn't to replace journalists.

"Quite simply, these tools are not intended to, and cannot, replace the essential role journalists have in reporting, creating and fact-checking their articles," Google spokesperson Jenn Crider told the NYT.

"For instance, AI-enabled tools could assist journalists with options for headlines or different writing styles," she added.

The news comes after Google showed off a new AI-powered search interface, dubbed "Search Generative Experience," or SGE for short, that can summarize entire webpages by generating "AI snapshots" — something that could further undermine reporting by human journalists.

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Google's latest AI tech. The company's own track record has been less than stellar, with its AI chatbot called Bard failing to reliably tell truth from fiction. Researchers have found that it is also incredibly easy to get the chatbot to generate huge misinformation at scale.

In other words, how can an AI model be of use to journalists if it's detached from reality?

With the media industry exploring new ways to adopt generative AI in its newsrooms, it's only a matter of time before the conversation starts revolving around reducing headcounts.

In fact, we've already seen several publications lay off human journalists while pivoting to AI tech.

And while generative AI has yet to demonstrate an ability to distill information in a coherent and reliably truthful manner, that may not always be the case.

It's not just jobs on the line — the entire reputations of news publications are at stake as well. And that should have media execs think long and hard before they take up Google on its offer.

More on generative AI in journalism: Google Unveils Plan to Demolish the Journalism Industry

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