A term on our About Us page highlighted by the contextualizer.
A term on our About Us page highlighted by the Contextualizer.

Hi there, Giovanni again. It’s now been two months since the launch of our site redesign and new product suite. (First off, how’s it going? Let us know by tapping the red box at the bottom right of your screen.)

When we launched our new site, we hinted at additional features and engagement opportunities on our roadmap. Now we’re excited to share our latest tool: Contextualizer.

Context is king

You’ll now notice a yellow highlight box over certain words in a story. Clicking on them gives you a definition of the noun or term. For example, you may be unfamiliar with what the San Diego Association of Governments does and want additional context to help you better understand the transportation story you’re reading. You may also want additional information on a police officer named in a Power & Governance story who was a key individual in previous reporting.

The inewsourcerer tool is our first integrated use of AI on our site. Contextualizer uses contextual information (funny how that works, right?) from the story + a general understanding of terms to generate definitions for each of the highlighted concepts. We then manually review those definitions and edit them as needed.

Contextualizer doesn’t replace thorough reporting and good writing, but it does give you, the reader, more power over your reading experience. Let us know what you think by sharing your feedback.

Better addressing readability

If you’re a longtime reader, you may remember our in-house tool Transparify. The feature displayed additional context from stories with an on-off toggle that would underline mentions of documents and other sources of information.

While a good idea in concept, Transparify was clunky, challenging to maintain and underutilized – so much so, we decided to return to traditional forms of citation in news articles that readers were more familiar with. 

Citations were only ever one piece of the context puzzle, though. What had been missing all along was a way to provide additional context and background information to terms, concepts and proper nouns in the story without impacting the user experience by adding tons of additional text to the article itself.

We think Contextualizer will help close that gap and deepen trust in coverage with our readers.

The AI elephant in the room

A big part of the trust equation for us is being transparent with our use of AI tools.

Artificial intelligence is here to stay, and its use cases are only growing. We’ve been thinking about it – a lot – and the ways in which we could leverage it as a local, independent news organization in the months and years ahead. One thing that’s clear is the need for an AI ethics policy, both at the industry and inewsource level.

These are the questions we’re asking when evaluating AI integrations:

  • Does the use of AI enhance or replace a core function? What are the staffing implications of either?
  • Does the use of AI provide tangible value to the reader, or does it add unnecessary noise to the user experience?
  • Does the use of AI tonally and/or ethically conflict with any reporting it may enhance?
  • Are there processes and safeguards in place to prevent the AI from being used maliciously?

Stay tuned for more of our AI plans in the future. We’re excited to see how the technology can be used for good, while also being mindful of its shortcomings. 

Feedback is welcomed – and warranted

The majority of the feedback we’ve received on our new features and design has been positive. Some of you have told us that BeeLine Reader makes it easier to get through a longer story; others have said the story impact forms offer a meaningful way to reflect after reaching the end of an article. 

We’re continuing to work on refining the user experience, but need your input to do so. There are plenty of ways to share your thoughts on our site: the story impact form across many of our stories, occasional reader experience surveys that pop up as you navigate the site and the general feedback form found in the red box.

When many readers say the same thing, we’re able to prioritize releases and updates that better cater to our larger audience. Thanks in advance for your partnership in helping us create a better news experience!  

Type of Content

Blog: Updates from the newsroom on philanthropy, awards, staff and more.

Giovanni joined us October 2022 and manages the overall user experience across our suite of news products and integrations. His love for UX came from a background of innovation in journalism, including 360 video production and social media. Giovanni is a native San Diegan, proud University of Southern...