G/O Media Staffers ‘Appalled’ as Company Begins Testing AI-Created Content Across Sites

“Cease [your] plans to litter our websites with AI-generated content,” unionized editorial employees at The Onion, Deadspin and The Root say

Merrill Brown became G/O Media's editorial director in January 2023

After G/O Media, which owns sites including The Onion, The Root and Deadspin, announced it is rolling out AI-created content next week, “appalled” unionized editorial staffers blasted the company, saying, “The hard work of journalists cannot be replaced by unreliable AI programs.”

Editorial director Merrill Brown assured editorial employees via email that the trial rollout will produce only a few stories “basically built around lists and data,” and that “these features aren’t replacing work currently done by writers and editors.”

“We hope that over time if we get these forms of content right and produced at scale, AI will, via search and promotion, help us grow our audience,” Brown wrote.

That assertion was met with scorn by The Onion Union and GMG Union. In a response shared to Twitter, they stated, “They have given us no reason over the years to believe this statement.” They cited “years of disinvestment, increased demands on reporters and editors and attrition of staff,” noting that the announcement comes “mere days after the company laid off more than a dozen colleagues, including union employees.”

In a June 14 tweet, The Onion Union described the way the layoffs occurred as “cruel” and “incredibly callous.”

The memo did not specify which sites would feature the AI content, but G/O Media also owns Gizmodo, Quartz, Jezebel, Jalopnik, AV Club, Kotaku, The Takeout and The Inventory.

A rep for the company told TheWrap they had no additional details than Brown’s email about the AI test.

When he was hired in January, Brown said he was “thrilled to be joining such a vibrant company that is leading in the digital space” and pledged to maintain “the distinctive and powerful voices of each site.”