Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Community & Society
Published on April 09, 2024
Letter From The Publisher: Hoodline's Transition to Hybrid Content

We at Impress3 had the privilege of taking up the mantle of Hoodline in 2021. We are very proud to announce a brand new redesign that changes a lot about how you interact with Hoodline and how Hoodline brings you the news.


Hoodline spent many years as a hyper-local, neighborhood-focused blog with largely original content, but the pace and volume of that content had slowed under the ownership of Nextdoor. Though you may not have known it, Hoodline has also been a pioneer in AI-assisted news since at least 2018 — under both Pixel Labs and Nextdoor before us. These previous owners attempted to expand the site into other cities nationwide largely through auto-generated "Top 5" lists pulled from Yelp, though this project was later abandoned.

We believe that within the coming years, AI will have permeated the majority of the news-gathering industry, in one form or another. Whether you know it or not, even the most well-respected publications — like the SF Chronicle and in fact, most sites run by news behemoth Hearst — already have their own “Use of AI” statements on their sites. Here is ours.

We proudly continue to publish the works of investigative and neighborhood journalists, some of whom have been writing for Hoodline for over a decade. We also understand the changing landscape well.

Back in 2019 when Impress3 acquired SFist, Mission Local wrote, “[SFist's] new owners, Impress3 Media, seek ‘to revitalize local news through software-assisted reporting and writing,’” criticizing the announcement as ‘less heartening.’ Though today's announcement is not related to SFist, which does not employ AI tools, we stand by the sentiment today on Hoodline.

When we acquired Hoodline, it was on the brink of being shut down completely, with all staff and contributors to be left without a publication. We are proud stewards of Hoodline and are even more proud to say that Hoodline now employs dozens of additional staff. To accomplish this, our current model creates opportunities for junior-level journalists to use various tools at their disposal to do things like reblog police press releases and create reliable, simple news stories. These tactics allow Hoodline to build the traffic and revenue needed to employ more experienced, full-time journalists. And we continue to publish stories from experienced writers as well, and respect the craft of on-the-ground, skilled reporting.

Hoodline has already hired dozens of additional writers in the past several months and now reaches millions of monthly readers across multiple cities.

As a very early adopter, we are extremely cognizant of the risks and potential pitfalls of AI. It is not like there are just robots doing all the writing here. We have also brought on dozens of editors who respectively work on each and every article. We recognize that the quality level from AI alone isn't equivalent to that of experienced journalists — or even a combination of journalists and AI tools. We constantly strive to both improve our systems and continue to grow our team of journalists.

AI-Assisted Badges and Hoodline’s Use of AI

Using a concept developed in coordination with our journalist-editor teams, stories produced by our In-House Writing Collective that include the use of AI tools are published under pen names which are not associated with any individual live journalist or editor. Instead, the independent variants of the AI model that we’re using are tied to specific pen names, but are still being edited by humans.

As a matter of policy, each article is edited by at least two people, and sometimes more than that. While we strive to provide reporting that is as accurate as possible, we cannot guarantee that we will never make a mistake, as both people and systems can have faults at times — but we are fast to act, making corrections as necessary.

From this point forward, these pen names, associated with a combination of our In-House Writing Collective and AI-tools, will have a badge next to them and at the top of the article, noting that the writing is AI-assisted. This badge serves to increase transparency in how we do things, something that we seek to continually improve as time goes on. 

I want to reiterate that not all articles will have this badge, as our skilled journalists will continue to break stories and write them under their own names.

Our overarching goal is to continue to build out two types of teams, creating opportunities for both junior-level writers as well as experienced local journalists who can write stories they believe are interesting for their neighborhood beats. We also plan to increase editorial oversight of both teams, and gradually improve the quality of news and content on the site to serve readerships in cities small and large.

To be clear, we do not programmatically scrape stories or automatically crawl other news websites with a bot. We have human researchers who investigate tips, reports, press releases, and other statistics or materials in order to decide what might be of interest to our readers. We still encourage our readers to submit their tips here.

Your Comments and Scrutiny

We welcome and invite the commentary and scrutiny of our readers and other journalists, as we are proud to stand by our work, our team, and our practices. As we push the intersection of AI and journalism, we hope to help enhance the process of online newsgathering, curation, and delivery, and to pave the way for revenue models that fund even more true, human journalism. The goal has never been to eliminate journalists, but rather to find a business model that could be viable to support more local news sites, and produce more helpful local news. Like any publication, none of it is perfect, but we are hoping to carve out space for more local media made by real people, instead of less.

Contact Us: [email protected]