Current Affairs

Reflections from NewsTrust staff on the Baltimore pilot

As the NewsTrust Baltimore pilot winds down, we are publishing a series of reports about our local news experiment. For the past six months, we have provided a free online service to help local residents find good journalism about their city -- and become more discerning news consumers in the process, thanks to the support of the Open Society Foundations.

In this post, each member of the NewsTrust staff that worked on this project will share personal observations about the Baltimore pilot. See also our other reports to date on our blog: an analysis of the Baltimore news ecosystem, our editorial report, educational and community report, survey results and first pilot statistics.

After this Sunday, July 31, staff will no longer curate NewsTrust Baltimore, though we will post a few more reports on this blog in August. For more information about the wrap-up of this project and about NewsTrust's new directions, check out this blog post.

Fabrice Florin, NewsTrust founder and executive director

FabSquarePhoto I learned a lot from our local news experiment in Baltimore. Here are my main takeaways.

1. Journalism is evolving in Baltimore.

When we first took on this assignment, I was concerned that we might find a scarcity of good journalism in Baltimore. What we discovered instead was a thriving news ecosystem, with a growing independent scene that complements the work of mainstream media organizations. Traditional forms of newsgathering are co-evolving with these new ways to share public information, which bodes well for the future of local journalism.

2. A guide to good local journalism is a useful service.

NewsTrust Baltimore helped residents find quality journalism about their city, promoting good local stories from diverse sources, many of which they didn't previously know about. Using the NewsTrust social news platform, our community curated the news in Baltimore for more than 20,000 unique visitors. Traffic to our site was steady throughout the six-month pilot, and more than 60 percent of survey respondents found the service useful. Our staff posted daily stories for review on the site, inviting a healthy level of community participation, with more than 3,700 story reviews from 570 members. Our collaborative news curation tools proved particularly effective for surfacing good journalism in Baltimore, from a wide range of sources. 

3. Rating the news teaches literacy in schools.

Our educational programs and review tools helped more than 250 students become more critical readers and informed citizens. We worked with a dozen local schools and nonprofits to engage their students to review stories on our site and to learn to tell the difference between good and bad journalism. As a result, more than two-thirds of the students who reviewed five stories or more passed our news literacy test. We were more effective in colleges than high schools, and we need to design new courses for younger students with low literacy levels. But overall, educators found our service effective in helping the next generation of news consumers learn to separate fact from fiction.

4. Social news sites build local community.

NewsTrust Baltimore brought together a community of citizens, journalists, students and educators to discuss local issues and how they're covered by news organizations. By combining our online social news network with face-to-face meetings, we helped our members make new connections that might not have happened otherwise -- as well as to develop existing relationships. This ability to meet in person is a unique benefit of hosting a local site, and it stands in contrast with our national site, where our exchanges have been mostly virtual so far. 

5. Local news startups are hard to sustain.

I am very grateful to Lori McGlinchey and Diana Morris at the Open Society Foundations and Debra Rubino at OSI Baltimore for their invaluable participation in this experiment, which meant a lot to me personally. I wish we could have discovered a viable revenue model to offer NewsTrust Baltimore as an ongoing service beyond our six-month pilot. But local foundations we spoke to had other priorities, most schools were not ready to pay for our services and the site did not generate enough traffic to sell ads or subscriptions. So despite this pilot's many positive outcomes, a longer-term investment would be needed to make it sustainable. These sustainability issues may prove to be the most difficult challenge for local news startups to solve: they may require a close coordination between philanthropy, government, school and business communities.

6. A very special team.

Last but not least, I feel privileged to have worked with such a world-class local team: Gin Ferrara, Mary Hartney and Andrew Hazlett -- as well as Subbu Sastry and Jon Mitchell on our national team. Together, they delivered a high-quality service with modest resources, and I have really enjoyed our collaboration. Many thanks, as well, to all our partners and members for joining our experiment. I hope they got as much from it as we did, and that our findings will help them and other communities discover even better ways to find and share good local journalism.  



Gin Ferrara, NewsTrust Baltimore community manager

Gf2sm_bruceweller I was immediately intrigued by the concept of NewsTrust and the NewsTrust Baltimore pilot. As a media educator, I wanted to see how we could help people become more critical news consumers through an online community focused on local news.

Through this experience, I learned the opportunities and limitations of digital communities. I love the way NTB validates and encourages transparency of its members. I saw that when people were comfortable being themselves and sharing their comments, both honestly and respectfully, we developed rich dialog and began to grow a real community. 

My own beliefs about the power of local communities and face-to-face interactions were reinforced by this pilot. People we met offline often became more participatory online. This was not universal, but I saw many cases where once I spoke with someone at an event, I saw their reviews increase, their notes lengthen, and their general involvement become more deep. Building relationships always matters.

This was also a great education for me in learning the vocabulary of news journalism, of beats and grafs, sources and ledes. Working with local journalists was refreshing -- I got to see their perspectives on the challenges of reporting with a small budget and an even tighter deadline. I learned more about what becomes news in the local sphere and also saw more starkly which stories get missed or left behind.

I am so grateful for this experience of working with such talented, invested people. The NewsTrust team are some of the most collaborative, supportive people I have ever worked with, and I learned so much from them all.



Mary Hartney, NewsTrust Baltimore local editor

Photo-2-2_large I began working on NewsTrust Baltimore in early January, three days after returning to the U.S. from a year abroad. I'd spent 11 months in Malaysia working for a mobile Internet company and had done some traveling in Europe over the holidays. NewsTrust Baltimore proved to be an invaluable part of my transition home, a way of reconnecting with the news and communities in my adopted city.

We hit the ground running -- or as quickly as was possible in the snowy, icy weather -- during that first week in January, as West Coasters Fabrice Florin and Jon Mitchell were in Baltimore for meetings and trainings. I bumped our rented red Pontiac Vibe through Baltimore streets, and our days were fueled by takeout coffee and deli sandwiches.

The pace slowed down, though only slightly, after launch. As part of working on this project, I read widely across Baltimore media and discovered many new favorite sites and authors. I reconnected with journalism and recognized from a new perspective those who are doing good work, day after day, to illuminate issues and tell important stories. And I felt charged and inspired about the news -- both the news organizations and what they were covering -- in Baltimore.

Outside of the site work, some of my favorite experiences were working with Gin Ferrara to teach news literacy in classrooms at Towson University and Baltimore Freedom Academy. I loved helping students develop opinions about journalism and what was going on in the news, encouraging critical thinking and new ideas.

But I think my biggest takeaway from this project will be the experiences of working with such a wonderful team. Through all our work building communities and working to understand them in Baltimore, we became our own community. I learned so much from each of my colleagues and am so grateful for the experience.



Andrew Hazlett, NewsTrust Baltimore writer/researcher

AH Long before the NewsTrust Baltimore project began, I was an active consumer of local news. I'd visit the Baltimore Sun homepage several times a day, read through the City Paper and Urbanite, and dip into some local blogs and Twitter streams. When I signed up to work as a writer and researcher at newsTrust Baltimore, I thought I already had a firm handle on the city's journalism ecosystem

But, when it became my job to help document that ecosystem, I was stunned by the number and variety of news sources. Each week, it seemed, we'd discover more, or new journalism start-ups would emerge. The volume of content was more like a fire hose than the news desert one would expect from, say, watching Season 5 of "The Wire."

But what about the value of that content? Was it mostly opinionated chatter riding the backs of the traditional mainstream news media? Was it sterile reporting from press releases, or adventurous bloggers' reports capturing the texture of local neighborhoods? My answer would be, "All of the above, and then some."

When it comes to news and information, I have a bit of a split personality. I seek out and enjoy long-form journalism on extremely boring but important topics, e.g., legislative redistricting, convoluted public-private development debacles, and investigative series on ground rent. However, I also spend a lot of time floating along the stream of Tweets, updates and RSS reader headlines. Six months immersed in our local sea of information left me more than satisfied on both counts. In fact, there's far more reporting than any one person can keep up with. It's a situation that highlights the value of news curation -- one of the services NewsTrust Baltimore provided to readers.

But there are certainly gaps and divides in our local news ecosystem.  Though I saw no evidence of journalists backing away from sensitive racial topics, I met or became aware of very few African-American writers or editors. That's more than a little disconcerting in a city that is two-thirds black.

I also think there is more room for advocacy journalism in Baltimore. Sometimes, the dry, factual tone of traditional news writing can seem disconnected from the urgency of problems. There are proper limits on reporters "taking sides," so I think there is a big opportunity for more opinionated and action-oriented journalism to follow-up on stories revealed by traditional outlets.

I feel that activists, amateurs and private citizens are making real contributions to Baltimore's collective knowledge of itself. At the same time, the still-mighty Sun and other professionals and traditional news leaders seem to be finding new, stronger footing. The bottom line is that all Baltimore needs is more ... more reporting, more curating, more collaboration, and more argument. 


Jon Mitchell, NewsTrust managing editor

Ntavatar I had a blast bringing NewsTrust to Baltimore. I knew from the start that the local news environment was a great fit for our tools because they're both in experimental phases. I was encouraged by the interest we saw from established players, and I was impressed by the bold new media efforts I learned about as I familiarized myself with Baltimore's news scene. More than anything, though, I knew that Gin, Mary, and Andrew (in no order other than that in which I met them), would be able to help us find a home in Baltimore. I knew what we had to offer, having practically wedded myself to the NewsTrust tools, but I didn't know the city we were moving into, nor did I know much about its media landscape. After meeting each member of our local team for the first time, I didn't worry about that anymore.

I think NewsTrust Baltimore did great work. We surfaced some truly excellent stories, and the community generated some incisive and thoughtful reviews. We also brought to light some gaps in existing coverage, and the local team's methodical approach, breaking down coverage by topic and by medium, provided an informative cross-section of the current state of Baltimore's news ecosystem. I think the team's blog contains a treasure trove of information, and I hope that news organizations in Baltimore can benefit from that work as they build for the future.



Subramanya Sastry, NewsTrust chief engineer

Me2009 As an engineer who developed the technology, I was not as directly involved with running the Baltimore project, but it was fun to watch from the sidelines and see how things worked.   

In terms of the technology itself, the original national site hadn't been built to accommodate local news sites, but reworking the code to accommodate local news sites was a good overall experience and also showed up the strengths of the existing architecture and its weaknesses. Overall, it was a good change to the code to enable other local news sites if ever it becomes necessary.

I was happy to have provided ongoing support to enable the editors to get on with their tasks and thankful for their regular feedback and bug reports -- and for being accommodating when bugs got in the way of getting the work done. I enjoyed working with everyone on this project and the complementary and supporting roles we all played.


Always topical: Education news in Baltimore

NancyG This week at NewsTrust Baltimore, we're focusing on education and conducting a news hunt on the topic

As news breaks this afternoon of the resignation of Nancy Grasmick, the long-serving state schools superintendent, we're reminded that education is a major focus for Maryland families and news sources. A number of interesting stories on public schools, higher education and budget issues have already surfaced in our review of the subject, and we invite you to share and review the wealth of journalism on the subject.

Baltimore's public school system is a focal point for a national concern over urban education. The city's schools have been a source of despairing statistics and tragic story arcs (particularly in the fourth season of "The Wire"). Many local school districts are facing budget cuts and staff reductions severe enough to prompt student protests, as covered in The Baltimore Sun and Towson Patch.

But there's another side to Baltimore's education story.

Despite the challenges facing the city, the surrounding counties and the state of Maryland, there are innovative people and programs at work. An educator writing in the Huffington Post has argued that Baltimore is "quickly becoming the blueprint for how to turnaround a struggling district."

People in Chicago are sufficiently impressed with the leadership of Baltimore schools CEO Andres Alonso to bring up his name as a candidate to lead their gigantic school system.

A busy political season is coming to a close in Maryland's General Assembly. Funding for education, especially in Baltimore City, has been a flash point in debates over the state budget and a new proposed tax on alcohol.

The University of Maryland system and Baltimore's universities are also in the news a lot this week. For a dynamic view of these institutions, we encourage you to explore the student newspapers we have added as sources at NewsTrust Baltimore: The Quindecim (Goucher College), The Johns Hopkins News-LetterThe Greyhound (Loyola University Maryland), Columns (The College of Notre Dame of Maryland), The Towerlight (Towson University), The Retriever Weekly (UMBC), and The Diamondback (University of Maryland College Park).

Towson University is in the midst of a leadership change, and an interim president has been appointed. Access to higher education for young illegal immigrants has been the focus of debate in Annapolis this session. We have seen fascinating comments by young undocumented students advocating for in-state tuition and sometimes ambivalent reactions within Maryland's African-American politicians.

In sorting through the complexities and contrasting narratives surrounding education in Baltimore, we welcome your contributions. Together, the community of NewsTrust Baltimore staff, partners, readers, and members can help surface the best journalism on this crucial topic. Next week, when we've wrapped up our education news hunt, we'll highlight on the blog the most informative stories and your insightful reviews and comments. 

Photo credit: Maryland State Archives


In the news this week

Although we didn't do a traditional news hunt this week, there was still plenty to talk about on NewsTrust Baltimore, and it was a particularly good week for news.

Investigative Voice began releasing excerpts from a e-book called "Why Do We Kill?" The book is a collaboration between Stephen Janis, an Investigative Voice reporter, and former Baltimore City homicide Detective Kelvin Sewell. Excerpts are here, here and here.

Erin Cox, a reporter at The Capital in Annapolis, was in Japan on vacation when the earthquake hit, and she wrote a moving first-person account of the following days. (Her husband is a reporter at The Washington Post, and you can find some of his coverage here.)

Bloggers have had a lot to say lately about questions over residency for City Council members. Check out Adam Meister's research and pointed questions, as well as related posts from Mobtown Shank, WBAL-TV, and North Baltimore Patch. The comments section of this NewsTrust Baltimore page has some good related links and commentary.

City Paper's cover story on complaints about the Environmental Control Board has some thoughtful reviews, but another story from the paper has had even more commentary. A reporter, Van Smith, discloses in "Sweet Deal," a piece about a drug dealer that he once bought pot from the subject. This was noted by Jim Romanesko, who writes a media blog and newsletter for, and it was also picked up by The Baltimore Sun's crime blog.

WYPR aired another installment in its "Living with Lou" series, conversations with Dudley Clendinen, a writer and journalist who has been diagnosed with ALS. Reporter Sarah Richards also added some context to the recent Baltimore City police towing scandal.

The Baltimore Brew continued to get the scoops on Sparrows Point; two pieces from this week are here and here. Related: a TV station in Ohio noted the site's coverage of the issue. The Brew also released another "State of My Block" piece by a Baltimore resident.

Towson Patch stayed on top of developments over news about the Baltimore County schools superintendant's salary; the site has a dog in the fight. And Arbutus Patch editor Bruce Goldfarb explainedhow open records played a crucial role in two stories broken by the publication over the past several days.

We've featured these stories -- and many more -- throughout the week on NewsTrust Baltimore, but please give them a read and add your comments and reviews if you haven't already.

Additionally, this week we've featured stories on our home page and in the newsletter that are from weeks past that you may have missed. Here's a summary of what we noted -- we'd still love your comments and reviews here, too.


Silent No More - City Paper

Living with Lou - WYPR

Cruel Season - City Paper

Could NPR mistakes hurt Baltimore radio stations? - The Baltimore Sun

CVP owner picks up pieces - Towson Patch


Maryland gay marriage debacle reveals cowards and civil rights myopia - The Washington Post

Interview with Baltileaks - The Indypendent Reader

Keys to the City - Urbanite

Through the Lens - Urbanite

Maryland Democrats and their situational ethics - Red Maryland


What have we missed -- both this week and previously? Let me know by posting a comment or adding stories to the site. 


Update: This blog post was updated on March 28, 2011, to include a news story that was inadvertently left out from the lists of the week's featured past stories.


Bringing good news to the surface

For the first time since NewsTrust Baltimore launched, we won't be doing a news hunt this week. Instead, we'll follow the news as it breaks, and we're also going to try something new: highlighting stories from the past few weeks that are worthy of more discussion. 

In some cases, they will be highly rated stories that we think could spur more good discussion. In other cases, they will be interesting stories that may have gotten lost in the shuffle. We'll be pointing to two each day -- one news and one opinion piece -- on the home page, in the "from the editors" box on the upper right, and occasionally in the newsletter. 

We'll resume news hunts soon, and we have a few excellent topics in the works. In the meantime, we'll summarize the results of the transportation and Red Line news hunt on Wednesday, and we still encourage you to rate and review stories on those pages.

Thanks for your participation on NewsTrust Baltimore


On the hunt for culture and living stories

The fourth week of the NewsTrust Baltimore pilot focused on coverage of culture and living stories. This news hunt ran from Monday, Feb. 21, through Sunday, Feb. 27.

Our guest host for this news hunt was Evan Serpick, senior editor at Baltimore magazine. Evan said:

"The experience reinforced my understanding that there are a wonderful range of local media outlets covering culture, from those covering "high" culture, like BMA director Doreen Bolger's blog "Art-Full Life" and B-mag's Arts Editor John Lewis, to those covering pop and street culture, like online magazine Gutter and hip-hop blog Government Names. We're really lucky to have such rich cultural coverage."

Indeed, Baltimore cultural journalists covered a lot of ground this week: contemporary art by African-American women, a sweeping survey of six decades of photography, the life of a legendary Baltimore jazz singer, the city's underrated dance companies, and important stories at the crossroads of politics and culture.

During the week, 39 stories in the living and culture categories were reviewed by the NewsTrust Baltimore community. Of those, 11 received a NewsTrust rating, and 11 were considered above average. 

Recommended stories



Featured topic
Baltimore is home to some of the East coast's great museums and cultural institutions. The city also boasts a vibrant scene of performing and visual arts. There is a diverse (and growing) array of news and opinion outlets devoted to covering the cultural landscape of Baltimore.

A major new exhibition opening at the Baltimore Museum of Art gave readers a chance to sample several flavors of cultural coverage. "Seeing Now: Photography Since 1960" opened on February 20th. What Weekly captured the scene at the opening party (with, fittingly, lots of photographs), and Urbanite took a close look at the works on display and offered a thoughtful review. And The Baltimore Sun's Tim Smith conveyed another take on the exhibit.

NewsTrust reviewers were intrigued by the City Paper's story about Baltimore's "DIY" dance scene. Towson University senior Asia S. Hinton wrote: "This story is a bit lengthy but it has all the elements of good journalism. There are extensive examples of the kinds of dance and a brief description of each. There are also various quotes from the subjects, the story even plays on a past article written by the Baltimore Sun. It also does a great job in describing the emotion and passion of the two subjects in the story. Only suggestion I may have (which many of my teachers at Towson tell me to do) is for the writer to possibly interview someone who is thinking of attending the performance. Overall the story was edited well, and I love the ending quote which ties the story back to its introduction."

Baltimore's place in the national cultural fabric was also on display this week. Baltimore magazine's profile of Ethel Ennis, a jazz singer still going strong after 60 years in show business, demonstrated how one person's life can touch on many aspects of musical and national history. The profile definitely struck a chord with reviewers at NewsTrust, as well. Towson University professor Stacy Spaulding wrote: "This is a lovely portrait of Ethel Ennis. In a city with an important--but often ignored--jazz pedigree, Mrs. Ennis is one of our living treasures. I hope this intimate look will result in more opportunities to see her perform and celebrate her talent and our history."

History can take front and center in our present-day debates, as seen in the Maryland General Assembly's struggle over which great Marylander to honor in a statue at the United States Capitol building: Harriet Tubman or Charles Carroll

In a political moment of cultural significance, Maryland's Senate passed a bill to recognize same-sex marriages. In the days ahead, as the action moves to the House of Delegates, check NewsTrust Baltimore for coverage of tracking the momentous debate.  

Finally, in a story close to our hearts here at NewsTrust Baltimore, Bmore Media published an interesting story about some innovative online publications contributing to the city's news ecosystem and cultural landscape. We highly recommend taking a look at that piece and checking out the sites it details.

Thanks to our community
We'd like to thank our community members and media and educational partners who helped find the stories that were part of this news hunt. If you are not yet a member of NewsTrust Baltimore, please sign up and join the experiment; your voice is needed and welcome.

This week, you can help us find the best journalism on communities in Baltimore by posting and reviewing stories in the community topic. Our guest host is Fern Shen, editor and publisher of The Baltimore Brew

Please help us post and review stories on these topics -- the success of this social news experiment depends on the participation of members like you.

Thank you again, and see you on the site!



Black history in the news

It's a wonderful coincidence that NewsTrust Baltimore launched on the eve of Black History Month. There has been a lot of news about the people, places and events that have made history in Baltimore and beyond. Here are some of the stories we've found:

  • Baltimore Magazine's feature on Ethel Ennis gives us a glimpse into the world of one of Baltimore's jazz greats, who is also an active civic leader. 
  • The Maryland Reporter piece on Hattie Harrison celebrates the history of the oldest Maryland state senator.
  • The Baltimore Times published a series written by columnist R.B. Jones that looks at politics, leadership and lessons for and from African-Americans. Check out his History Lessons Parts I, II and III to read more.
  • The Superblock development project has been in the news quite a bit, introducing a new generation to the historic sit-in for civil rights at Read's Drug store. There have been several articles about this. 
  • There's also news about the future, with a Baltimore Sun report that census data has shown that black-owned businesses are growing.

Please review these stories and post your own! You can use the topic tags "black" "race" and "history," as appropriate, to associate the stories with Black History Month.


Help us find good journalism about culture and living

This week we're focusing on culture and life in the Baltimore area, and our guest host for these topics is Evan Serpick of Baltimore magazine. Evan is a senior editor at the magazine, and he'll be helping post and review related stories during the week. You'll also find his picks on the culture and living pages.

Over the weekend, we wrapped up a week that focused on science and technology coverage, and you can still review and rate those stories under the sci/tech and technology topics. We'll post a round-up of that news hunt later this week on the blog.

We depend on your participation to make this experiment a success -- please join us on the site!


Business news coverage in Baltimore

In our second week of the NewsTrust Baltimore pilot, we took a closer look at business news coverage, with a focus on real estate and development. Our guest host for this news hunt was Jay Rickey, the editor and publisher of Citybizlist Real Estate Baltimore, and he helped surface business news stories from a variety of Maryland publications. This news hunt ran from Monday, Feb. 7, through Sunday, Feb. 13.

Together, we found a number of good stories during the week, including follow-ups about a proposed Wal-Mart in the city and news about Superblock development. Also during the week, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake gave her State of the City address, covering several business-related items. Census data was revealed in the later part of the week, which spurred a number of articles and analysis pieces.

During the week, 40 stories covering business issues were reviewed by the NewsTrust Baltimore community. Of those, 14 received a NewsTrust rating, and 14 were considered above average.

Recommended stories



Featured topic
During this week, we took a look at real estate and development in Baltimore City and County, as well as the state of Maryland, and found some interesting stories. 

There was no shortage of news about real estate, both commercial and residential, and highlights included stores from The Baltimore Sun about vacant properties, green homes in the Oliver neighborhood, a state grant for development of an old printing plant, and the Superblock. Investigative Voice wrote about the struggling Convention Center hotel, and Bmore Media published a column about what other cities can learn from Baltimore's Inner Harbor. 

The Daily Record featured follow-ups from its EBDI "Too big to fail?" series, including an editorial that was reviewed on NewsTrust Baltimore.

A proposed Wal-Mart in the city also drew some heat from independent blogs, including a piece from The Mobtown Shank and one from Baltidome. NewsTrust member Christopher Siple said: "I'm glad that blogs like Baltidome catch things like this that would otherwise fall through the cracks, and blogs like Shank can amplify it effectively."

Members had thoughtful comments on other stories, including Brittani Bowling's note about the Oliver homes piece from The Sun: "This story does a good job of painting a picture of improvement in East Baltimore. It brings in the point of view of experts, those affected, and gives hope in what might not typically be a very hopeful topic. I enjoyed reading this story."

Tina Carroll said of Sun reporter Edward Gunts' Superblock coverage: "Gunts' story highlights community sentiment in respects to an ongoing development project. This is something often overlooked by the media."

News comparison
Over the final weekend of this news hunt, several sources covered a student protest at Read's Drug Store, a civil rights landmark, and we have a news comparison set up on the site this week to see who covered it best.

Please rate and review these stories from The Baltimore Brew, The Baltimore Sun story, and WJZ-TV and let us know which you prefer.

Thanks to our community
We'd like to thank our community members and media and educational partners who helped find the stories that were part of this news hunt. If you are not yet a member, please sign up and join the experiment.

This week, we're seeking good journalism about science and technology, and we're off to a good start. Please help us post and review stories on these topics -- the success of this social news experiment depends on the participation of members like you.

Thank you again, and see you on the site!

This blog post was updated on Feb. 24, 2011, to correct the number of stories included in this news hunt. 


This week's topics: real estate and development

Happy Monday! Last week, with your help, we discussed and reviewed some excellent stories about politics and the Maryland General Assembly. On Thursday, we put together a "news comparison" of coverage of Gov. Martin O'Malley's State of the State speech; we'll have the results from that later this week. You can still participate by reviewing the three stories, which are highlighted in the right sidebar of the Maryland Legislature page.

This week, even as that General Assembly conversation continues, we're shifting our editorial focus slightly to talk about business and, more specifically, real estate and development in the Baltimore area. The Daily Record just published an in-depth investigative series about the East Baltimore Development Inc., and I expect there will be some follow-up news this week. (By the way, check out the reviews and comments on those features -- there's some great conversation happening!) Development is always a great topic in Baltimore, as neighborhoods and blocks are constantly in flux, and we're starting to see development pick back up as the economy recovers.

Our host for this topic will be Jay Rickey, editor and publisher of Citybizlist Real Estate. Citybizlist was an early partner and supporter of NewsTrust Baltimore, and we're delighted to have Jay's help and expertise this week.

On a related note, I want to highlight an upcoming Baltimore Brew project, where editor Fern Shen is asking readers to discuss "the state of your block." Information about Baltimore's neighborhoods can be left in the comment field of that post. We'll keep an eye on this series and feature the final stories when they run the week of Feb. 28.

Thanks, as always, for your reviews and participation. We're off to a great start because of members like you!

Not a member yet? Click here to sign up for our free service!

-Mary Hartney, local editor


Help us find good journalism about politics

Welcome to NewsTrust Baltimore -- we're glad you're here! I'm the local editor for this site, and I'll be using this blog to talk about what's happening on NewsTrust Baltimore.

Each week, we'll be focusing on a different topic that's important to Baltimoreans, but we'll also be covering and talking about all topics and news as it breaks.

For this first week, our focus will be politics, and the timing is perfect; the General Assembly has just kicked off a new session and Gov. Martin O'Malley's annual State of the State speech is Thursday afternoon.

Howard Because politics is such a broad topic, and a popular topic on NewsTrust, we'll also zoom in to the Maryland Legislature. We're fortunate to have a knowledgable guest host for these topics: Howard Libit, a founder of Center Maryland. Center Maryland, a news site dedicated to finding "common ground on common sense policies where we can make progress," is one of our media partners for this NewsTrust pilot project. Howard was a reporter and editor at The Baltimore Sun for 15 years, and I had the pleasure of working with him there when he was the paper's top-ranking news editor.

Howard will be helping point to good journalism about politics in Baltimore and Maryland, and you'll find his thoughtful reviews and picks in the Politics and Maryland Legislature topics, as well as throughout the NewsTrust Baltimore site.

Please help us find the best journalism about politics in this area by posting and reviewing stories and making sure they're tagged with "Baltimore," "Politics" and "Maryland Legislature," where appropriate.

For more info about NewsTrust Baltimore, check out our announcement and our About page.

As always, thanks for your participation -- see you on the site!


NewsTrust Baltimore: A local news experiment

Peoplepic_w300NewsTrust Baltimore is an online experiment to improve the way people get their local news, now under development at NewsTrust, with the generous support of the Open Society Foundations and OSI Baltimore.

Our goal for this news literacy project is to help Baltimore residents get better access to good journalism about their community -- and become more discerning news consumers in the process (especially university and high school students).

To that end, we will organize a two-month pilot in Baltimore due to launch next February 2011, based on a local version of the NewsTrust curation platform. Our special website will provide an online "story bank" where Baltimore residents can find good journalism about their area -- and share the best reporting with friends and neighbors.

5230678893_910f323504 During this pilot, a small team of professional editors will lead an online community of citizens, teachers, students, journalists and local experts to evaluate and promote the best local news coverage in their area. Participants will use the NewsTrust review tools to rate news stories based on journalistic qualities such as facts, fairness and context -- and learn to tell apart good journalism from misinformation.

Collectively, we will recommend news and opinions from a wide range of sources: mainstream and independent, commercial and public, national and hyper-local, ethnic or niche blogs -- in print, broadcast or online media. We will also track each source's expertise by topic.

5146596342_d18d9f7a29For this project, we will partner with several local universities and high schools -- as well as some of Baltimore's newspapers, radio and TV stations, bloggers, ethnic and nonprofit organizations. Our local news feeds will be featured on their websites as well, using our widgets.

This news hub and civic engagement network will give citizens a practical way to share good journalism on important issues such as politics, crime, education, justice, poverty, race and youth development. This will help raise public awareness about these issues, and identify informative news sources for each topic we cover.

In the process, we hope to make citizens more aware of their local news ecosystem, help them discover new sources of credible information, and start a discussion on how to improve the way Baltimore residents get their news.

We will post more information on our project page in coming weeks.


Support our work

NewsTrust is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people find quality news and information online. Read more about our initiative on our About page. If you are able, please consider a donation today, so we can keep providing more services like these to the public. Thank you!



About NewsTrust Baltimore

  • NewsTrust Baltimore is a local news experiment that aims to help Baltimore residents find good journalism about their area. Our web review tools let you rate the news based on journalistic quality, not just popularity. We're non-profit, non-partisan, and committed to helping citizens make informed decisions about democracy. More »

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