Heywire AI Offers a Solution to the Struggling News Industry

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Heywire AI Offers a Solution to the Struggling News Industry
Heywire AI

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Recently, Von Raees, founder of publishing group HeySoCal and tech startup Heywire AI, decided to conduct an experiment with his newsroom staff. Raees asked a human reporter and an AI reporter to write the same stories, and without knowing the bylines he said his own staff couldn’t tell the difference.

This sort of Turing test proved to Raees and his staff that AI newsgathering and reporting tools are advancing fast, and could serve as a catalyst for changing how the age-old business operates at a time when the industry is struggling.

In 2020, NPR reported that over 2,000 American newspapers have folded since 2004. That number sharply increased during the pandemic with more than 360 local papers – about two a week — went out of business since the pandemic began. What’s more, journalists are leaving the industry rapidly; between 2008 and 2020 the number of newspaper journalists nationwide more than halved.

This is a problem that Heywire AI hopes to solve.

“On the web, volume translates into dollars and profit,” Raees told me. “If you want to make volume you need fast, regurgitated news that’s out there… many journalists today aren’t doing original pieces; most people who want to be journalists, that’s not what they live for.”

That’s why Raees thinks his AI named Wells (after trailblazing reporter Ida B. Wells-Barnett) could step in to help get local newsrooms back on track.

Heywire, which announced itself to the public last week, is affiliated with HeySoCal, the publishing group founded by Raees in 1996. The group publishes 23 local newspapers including in the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys and Long Beach that, according to Raees, serve about 350,000 readers in the Southland.

But could asking an AI to write news in place of reporters perpetuate this very problem of declining quality news coverage? According to Raees, not if the AI is tasked with writing the more mundane, daily copy that keeps a paper and its website running.

“This is meant to be a tool to augment the experience and capabilities of true human journalists,” Raees told me. “Our number one intention with this is to allow journalists to be journalists by taking away the mundane everyday sort of things that an AI can handle.”

According to Raees those include earnings reports, or formulaic stories about breaking news. This is a common sentiment shared by major news outlets. In 2020, Reuters began using AI to automate video reporting after developing an internal AI that would suggest story ideas, analyze data and write copy two years prior.

In fact, though AI still feels like a new trend, as of this week, the World Association of News Publishers found that 39% of newsrooms are currently using generative AI tools, while only 20% reported having guidelines for such tools in place.

Raees believes that the HeySoCal news group can prove through its use of AI that it is worthy of use at a larger scale. The business model will eventually see Heywire license out its software in a SaaS model to other newsrooms of varying size. He told me Heywire is working on integrations with different content management systems to add the AI directly into the software newsrooms use to produce and edit content.

Editing and fact-checking are top of mind when building this AI, Raees said. He noted Heywire recruited former Los Angeles Times senior executive Jeffrey S. Klein as an advisor and is actively consulting with its reporting staff during development.

There’s also a concern that the AI could hallucinate false events or quotes. To prevent those issues, Raees said the AI draws from numerous sources of data and is never allowed to self-publish. Adding that, the AI is programmed to constantly scrub the internet for trusted information: “We are training Wells on an ongoing basis, with real time news content,” he said.

Right now Heywire’s target customers are small and medium-size news publishers. Raees said he’s in the process of raising $10 million to continue developing the platform, and also indicated there’s interest from two “multinational organizations” he wouldn’t disclose.

“All AI can do is deal with news that’s currently on the internet,” Raees said. “This is our way of contributing and being able to provide an avenue for small local news organizations to become viable again… And then taking their few journalists that they have left, and allowing them to go back to work doing what they're passionate about and what they love doing.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the readership of HeySoCal's publishing network.


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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.

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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.


Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle

Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out

Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities

Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo

SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours

Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch

Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
Image Source: Paramount

Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.

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  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

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