Yes, automation is controversial

At Hoodline, we know that automation, especially in the news space, is controversial. But with challenges mounting for local news, publications around the country are searching for innovative ways to do more with less. From Bloomberg News to The Guardian, top news outlets have been experimenting with automation as a way to fill in gaps that local reporters don't have the time, or interest, to work on. And Hoodline is, too.

A common fear is that automation will replace human journalists. But Hoodline’s stories are designed to supplement the offerings of our partners, including CBS, Hearst and ABC — not to replace them. From weather reports to monthly crime statistics, high school sports scores to small business openings, Hoodline's stories fill in content gaps and analyze high-level trends so newsrooms can focus their time and budgets on more in-depth topics and stories that require the skill and expertise of human reporters.

In short, we want to cover local topics that newsrooms just aren't focusing on, but that readers want. And we aim to bring much-needed coverage to so-called “news deserts”, where local news is threatened or nonexistent. In fact, our data-driven approach could one day enable us to cover thousands of cities.

To that end, Hoodline is now working with more writers than ever before — as well as data journalists and editors who collaborate with engineers and data scientists to carefully design the structure and logic of our local news templates, and continually strive to improve what we're able to produce. (Here’s a case study on how we’re working with crime data, for example.)

We also continue to invest in our original San Francisco news site, which produces high-quality local news stories written by longtime neighborhood reporters.

The problem in local news today isn't automation: it's financial sustainability. We believe that creative thinking and experimentation are necessary to address the tough problems faced by the news industry, and we're working hard to build a business model that helps support the work of other publications around the country, and increases the amount of local information that's available to readers.

What we're doing is new, and we don't have all the answers. Want to tell us what you think about automation in local news? Email us at feedback@hoodline.com.