Our sense of community: A summary of the news hunt
In the first two weeks of March, NewsTrust Baltimore focused on different facets of "community" in Baltimore. It's a broad concept that covers everything from neighborhoods to ethnicity to intangibles like a sense of belonging. To help us navigate this wide open topic, we had some great help from our own community of partners and members.
In the first week, Fern Shen, editor and publisher of The Baltimore Brew, was our guest host. She helped us search out, post, and review stories that followed the many strands pulled together under the topic of community. During the full two weeks of our news hunt, 137 stories in the community category were reviewed by NewsTrust Baltimore members. Of those, 33 received a NewsTrust rating, and 32 were considered above average.
Community to Have Its Say in TU Presidential Search (reviews) - Towson Patch
Lt. Gov. Brown’s grandmother was an illegal immigrant (reviews) - Maryland Reporter
There was no shortage of very important stories about community over these two weeks, and NewsTrust community members were particularly eloquent in their reviews. We'll highlight just a few of samples from these active discussions.
Published in the Baltimore Guide, "When a 311 call becomes a 911 call" is an opinion piece about the dangers of the city's neglect of a seemingly minor problem. In her review, Fern Shen wrote: "It's good community advocacy and that's often the only thing that's going to lead to good community journalism these days, with fewer reportorial boots on the ground. By putting this problem out there in a first-person blog post, the author is raising the issue and maybe it will be picked up by a reporter or a public official."
As Black History Month came to a close, WYPR examined the heritage of Pennsylvania Avenue, once a thriving boulevard of African American-owned businesses and clubs. A mix of photos, writing, and audio segments, the piece focused on one local activist's redevelopment efforts. Though many enjoyed the story, several reviewers wished for more information. Brianna Carter wrote: "It seems like there's more to the story, either the background or next steps ('future'). And I would argue that while Billie Holliday left an incredible legacy, there's more to 'Black History' in Baltimore than her ties. What is the future of physical memorials in Baltimore created to honor Black History?"
Another commenter was Antero Pietelo, author of Not in My Neighborhood, a chronicle of segregation in Baltimore. He took issue with the version of history in the WYPR report and offered some insights and links of his own.
The issue of same-sex marriage is a profound concern to many communities in Baltimore. The high stakes and deep emotions around the issue can make it a challenge for journalists. When a bill to allow such marriages failed in the House of Delegates, NewsTrust community members weighed in the extensive coverage. There was a particularly good discussion around Julie Bykowicz's story in the Baltimore Sun.
Michael Nitti, like most reviewers, praised the article for representing "both sides of the debate very well, interviewing both supporters of same-sex marriage such as Ruth Siegel and those who aren't all for it, such as Pastor Joel Peebles."
Ashley Stephenson commended the story as well, but detected a hint of partiality: "It was well written, well sourced, and very relevant. You could tell that the journalist did their best to be fair and understand both sides, although you can taste a twinge of bias in there."
The public health problems associated with lead paint have been a major problem in Baltimore's communities, so news that the city government had lost millions of dollars in federal abatement funding stirred a lot of comment at NewsTrust. Sabrina Lindsey praised the article, but asked, "What about the people? I saw a lot of government sources, but I didn't see any quotes from anyone directly affected by this issue. That should be the focus of it. What are these people going to do now? Are they going to keep living in these houses? How will they deal with the lead in their homes? What about their children?"
In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunamis in Japan, local community members with family in Japan offered their reactions in WJZ interviews. The terrible disasters bring to mind another form of community -- a sense of shared humanity across cultures and distance. It's a testament to the combined power of journalism (in both "new" and "old" formats) that even in Baltimore, we can feel such a close connection to the people of Japan.
The NewsTrust community
We are grateful to all the volunteers who have helped make our community of readers, reviewers, and media partners. Your work and ideas are helping to create an important resource that will benefit everyone in Baltimore.
This week, with help from our friends at Urbanite magazine, we are on the hunt for news related to the Red Line transit project. Join us in tracking down and reviewing the news about this major undertaking. If you are not yet a member of NewsTrust Baltimore, please sign up and join the experiment. Your voice is needed and welcome -- the success of this social news experiment depends on the participation of members like you. Thank you again, and see you on the site!
Photo credit: Eli Pousson