Opinion: High schoolers can do what AI can't NPR's Scott Simon has an idea for newspapers experimenting with AI: hire high school journalists to cover high school games rather than settle for substandard reporting.

Opinion: High schoolers can do what AI can't

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The Worthington Christian winning team mascot defeated the Westerville North losing team mascot 2-1 in an Ohio boys soccer game on Saturday. That's according to a story that ran last month in the Columbus Dispatch. Go winning team mascots. That scintillating lead was written not by a sportswriter, but an artificial intelligence tool. Gannett Newspapers, which owns the Dispatch, says it has since paused its use of AI to write about high school sports. A Gannett spokesperson said, we are experimenting with automation and AI to build tools for our journalists and add content for our readers.

Many news organizations, including divisions of NPR, are examining how AI might be used in their work. But if Gannett has begun their AI experimenting with high school sports because they believe they are less momentous than war, peace, climate change, the economy, Beyonce and politics, they may miss something crucial. Nothing may be more important to the students who play high school soccer, basketball, football, volleyball and baseball, and to their families, neighborhoods and sometimes whole towns. That next game is what the students train for, work towards and dream about.

Someday, almost all student athletes will go on to have jobs in front of screens, in office parks, at schools, hospitals or construction sites. They'll have mortgages and children, Suffer breakups and health scares. But the high school games they played and watched, their hopes and cheers will stay vibrant in their memories.

I have a small idea. If newspapers will no longer send staff reporters to cover high school games, why not hire high school student journalists? News organizations can pay students an hourly wage to cover high school games. The young reporters might learn how to be fair to all sides, write vividly and engage readers. That's what the lyrical sports columns of Red Barber, Wendell Smith, Frank Deford and Sally Jenkins did - and do.

And think of the great writers who've been inspired by sports - Hemingway on fishing, Bernard Malamud and Marianne Moore on baseball, Joyce Carol Oates on boxing, George Plimpton on almost all sports and C. L. R. James, the West Indian historian who once wrote of cricket, there can be raw pain and bleeding where so many thousands see the inevitable ups and downs of only a game.

A good high school writer, unlike a bot, could tell readers not just the score, but the stories of the game.


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