Teaching and building community with NewsTrust Baltimore

As the NewsTrust Baltimore pilot winds down at the end of July, 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.

In this report, we’ll take a look at the site’s educational and community activities and make recommendations for future projects.

See also our other reports to date on our blog: our editorial report, survey results and early pilot statistics.


Our educational partners and community

To build community participation in NewsTrust Baltimore, we reached out to educational institutions and local nonprofits before launching our site. These partners agreed to use the site to engage their students to look critically at local news media, develop the skills to distinguish fact from fiction, and inspire their own writing.

During the pilot, we partnered with the Baltimore Algebra Project, Baltimore Civitas School, Baltimore Freedom Academy, Baltimore Urban Debate League, Loyola University Maryland, Morgan State University, Towson University, University of Maryland - College Park, and Wide Angle Youth Media. In total, we trained 26 teachers and facilitators from these organizations and conducted media literacy presentations for more than 200 students.

Student reviewers represented 64 percent of total reviewers in the first three months of our pilot, as shown in our pilot stats report. Most, if not all, students were affiliated with our partners. During our pilot, 179 student reviewers posted 1,413 story reviews as of July 10, 2011, making significant contributions to our site.


Building participation online through offline events

Introsession1 To establish NewsTrust Baltimore as a locally focused, community-driven site, NewsTrust conducted significant outreach at schools and in local venues. Community manager Gin Ferrara, local editor Mary Hartney, and writer/researcher Andrew Hazlett, along with NewsTrust founder Fabrice Florin and managing editor Jon Mitchell, met with community leaders before and during the pilot. Introductory presentations were made to community leaders, educators and journalists from November 2010 through January 2011.

On Feb. 2, two days after launching the site, NewsTrust Baltimore hosted a launch reception for all our partners at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, giving everyone the opportunity to meet face to face and to share their goals for the pilot. This event, along with our preliminary meetings, helped us connect with the community and encourage participation in the project, while also building new relationships among the partners. Another community event, a meetup, was held March 15 at Teavolve restaurant to connect with partners and members and get feedback on their initial experiences.

We also held a handful of awards events toward the end of the pilot, which we'll discuss later in this post.


In February, once the site was live and we were curating online events, we worked more closely with educational partners to train staff and students to use the site, traveling to their schools and offices to present to their communities. These presentations typically lasted between 45 minutes and 2 hours and included a group review project, in which students used NewsTrust Baltimore to review a news story, then discuss it, with moderation by NewsTrust staff. Most presentations concluded with a group discussion, when participants asked additional questions and shared their perspectives on local journalism. In total, we made 16 presentations to the staff and students of our educational and community partner organizations.

Our presentations and training sessions made it easier for people to start using the site. Students quickly became comfortable logging in, rating the news and writing story reviews. Having access to the NewsTrust Baltimore community manager and local editor in the classroom helped them overcome any technical challenges, and it allowed us to learn more about their own needs for the site. Modifications to group-page and profile-page templates were often made as a result of these classroom visits.

Students who were trained and participated in a group review generally continued to use the site after our visit, while most of the partners who had not chosen to have an in-person presentation used the site less. We had a far higher degree of participation from college students than high school students: 57 percent of our overall reviewers were college students, and 7 percent were high-school students.


Creativity in partner projects

Students were invited to review six different stories, including two test stories that were used to determine their news literacy before and after the program. Once students completed all six reviews, they could become Certified Student Reviewers if they passed our news literacy test. Certified reviewers were recognized as such both on their profiles and at an awards event at the end of their school year.

Beyond these recommendations, our educational partners integrated NewsTrust Baltimore into their curricula and schedule in various creative ways.

Tustudents2Towson University professor Stacy Spaulding used the site to help her students improve their own journalism in her “Writing for New Media” course. Students picked their own "beat," or topic area, to follow, and they reviewed a series of stories from various news sources on that theme. They then created blogs and news websites, where they published their own content. At the end of the term, our local editor was invited back to the class to be a judge of the final projects.

Wide Angle Youth Media, a nonprofit media education organization, took another approach, hosting a news hunt to find and review local journalism about youth. Wide Angle did this in concert with its annual youth media festival, providing its audience of youth, families and educators with an opportunity to extend the conversation about youth issues online and examine how local journalism report on youth. Wide Angle staffer Stephanie Dickard curated the youth page that week and found that NewsTrust Baltimore, "allows users to really look at news from a variety of perspectives and investigate what may be missing in an article."

At Loyola University Maryland, professor Stephanie Flores-Koulish integrated NewsTrust Baltimore into her "Media Literacy Education" course. Our pilot project was just one facet of her overall curriculum, which is a requirement for all graduate students in Loyola's literacy education program. Students reviewed three stories in preparation for a trip to the Newseum museum in Washington, D.C. Rashawna Sydnor wrote of the experience that "the critical analysis of the articles made me take a closer look at the framing and evidence presented, or the lack thereof, and I can clearly see how this could be a launch pad for middle to high school students to experience the same."

This summer, Baltimore Freedom Academy is using NewsTrust Baltimore to spark discussions with youth about freedom of speech, civil liberties and the law. Students in the ninth-grade seminar will review stories in these topic areas and participate on the Students and the Law group page.

Some ideas that were not implemented but are recommended for future news initiatives like this one include launching a youth-run online newspaper, conducting research and developing arguments for student debates, connecting student journalists from different schools through group pages and events, and developing a simplified review tool for working with younger students.


Measuring news literacy skills

Civitas Helping people become more critical news consumers is one of NewsTrust's key goals, and we worked to develop a prototype for assessing the news literacy of our students and the educational impact of this pilot. To that end, we identified two flawed news stories as our "pre" and "post" tests. Both stories were selected by NewsTrust editors as examples of bad journalism, with clear flaws that could be identified using our review tools. We asked our educational partners to have their students review the pre-test story at the beginning of the pilot, and we distributed the post-test story at the end, in conjunction with our community survey. We then compared student ratings to editor ratings: Student reviews that were within 1 rating point above or below our average editor ratings passed, and reviews that were outside that range failed our news-literacy test.

Our pre-test story, "Racial tension simmers on Martha's Vineyard as Barak Obama arrives" was a deeply flawed story that had been tested extensively on our national site and used in a range educational settings in the past (our editors gave it a 1.86 overall rating). We used two post-test stories, as some classes had already reviewed one: "Opting out - Kweisi Mfume not running in mayoral race, councilman says"  and "News Flash: 14 year old Baltimore boy facing charges for beating grandmother in head with hammer"  were both local news stories selected by NewsTrust staff during the pilot. In both cases, our editors gave "2" or lower ratings to at least three rating categories (e.g.: fairness, sourcing, depth), with an average editor rating of 2.15 for "Opting out" and 2.1 for "News Flash".

Of the students who completed the pre-test story review, 88 percent passed, or reviewed the story within the acceptable range. For the post-test story, 79 percent passed. This was a useful exercise, but we believe this prototype needs to be developed further in order to effectively show the skill development of students, for several reasons.

The pre-test story was often reviewed as part of our first group presentation, when our staff coached the students with helpful hints, and in many cases students had the opportunity to edit their reviews after the discussion of the piece. It is possible that some who gave the story high marks on the first pass changed their rating on reflection, or even continued to edit their review during the group discussion. In addition, the post-test stories were reviewed online and, in most cases, without group discussion of the articles, so we don’t have a sense of the environment the students were in or the attention they gave their reviews. It should also be noted that the post-test stories were not as deeply flawed as the pre-test story, which made it harder for students to discern their flaws. Finally, both the “pre” and “post” stories were public on the NewsTrust Baltimore site, and reviewers could read others’ ratings and reviews, which could influence their own thinking.

These factors contribute to our conclusion that the current version of our news-literacy test needs to be developed further before we can offer it as a standard tool for assessing news literacy.

That said, we can observe from these first prototype results that the majority of our student reviewers were able to review stories with a degree of critical thinking by the completion of the pilot. 


Recognizing student and community achievement

It was our intention from launch to recognize the contributions of both our students and the NewsTrust Baltimore community at large. We developed awards for our college students (there was not enough participation by high-school students for awards by the school year's end), which we promoted to teachers and highlighted through our daily email newsletters and our blog.

Our education awards recognized thoughtful critiques, community contributions, and the trustworthiness of our reviewers, in these superlative award categories:

  • News Hound Award: For contributing the most reviews to the site.
  • Student Researcher Award: For posting the most stories from diverse sources to the site.
  • Most Trusted Student Reviewer: For having the most reviews that were rated highly by NewsTrust Baltimore editors and the general community.


Studentaward These awards were given to students who had already become Certified Student Reviewers (as described above), with only one award per category per school. Fifty-nine students from Towson University and one student from Loyola University were certified, and three students at Towson received one of the superlative awards.

We held an awards ceremony at Towson University on May 9, 2011, to recognize all the student achievers. It was an opportunity to connect once again with the community and to provide a fitting conclusion to their participation. At this time we also recognized the professors, whose commitment to the project encouraged so much student participation.

Kevinaward For other NewsTrust Baltimore members, a community awards event was held on June 21, 2011, at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore. Several members were recognized as "Top Reviewers," and one received an award as "Community NewsHound." These awards were given for either the highest number of reviews or posts, or for high ratings received by their peers for the quality of their reviews. We also gave awards to all our partners, guest hosts, and members who went above and beyond to make the pilot a success. This event was another opportunity for community members to network with each other and to build relationships outside of the online framework.


Considerations for future projects

Overall, we saw a high degree of college student participation throughout the academic semester. Once the school year ended, however, few students were able to maintain engagement. This tells us that educational activities should be scheduled with the school calendar in mind and that other community projects, such as Truthsquad, a fact-checking service, should be considered to maintain community participation in the summer months.

While many efforts were made to engage high-school partners, participation from this group remained comparatively low. Our outreach efforts may have been more successful had we begun the project in August, rather than January, so we could plan the partnerships and train the teachers before the start of the school year. Several presentations had to be postponed from January to later in February due to snow days, and by the time we worked with many teachers, they were shifting focus to prepare for the mandatory state exams.

High-school participation was also limited for many other reasons, as reported by teaching and program staff. Regular computer access was a challenge for some partners and potential partners. Some teachers felt that student technology literacy was low and that the process of teaching students to use the site could be challenging. Other teachers had difficulty integrating the pilot into their curriculum in the middle of the school year and might have had better success adding NewsTrust in the fall semester. Some students had poor reading and comprehension skills, making it difficult to evaluate the quality of the stories they were asked to review. Some partners expressed concerns about the relevance of the news sources to students; others were concerned about privacy controls on the site.

Susan Malone of Wide Angle Youth Media saw promise in using NewsTrust Baltimore with high-school youth, including "a collective effort to use the reviewing tools to evaluate media literacy skills of young people, but to do so youth need a more bite-sized way of digesting news media, with questions and fun facts to guide them in the process."

Some attempts to address these concerns included paper review forms for classes without computer access; limiting our high school workshops to explorations of facts and fairness, with new lesson plans; reducing the review format from “Full Rating” to “Quick Rating”; and identifying stories that have relevance to youth, in a variety of media types.

Other recommendations for future educational partnerships could be synchronizing pilot activities more closely with academic calendars; announcing awards criteria at the beginning of the pilot and offering prizes; developing targeted curricula for high-school and middle-school students; creating student log-ins with more privacy controls; and increasing the number of multimedia stories, along with special review criteria for multimedia journalism.


Conclusion: Educational structure and real-life connections support our online community

From our pilot, we learned that partnering with educational organizations enriches online community. It is clear that integrating NewsTrust Baltimore into the school curriculum boosts student participation and overall literacy, and we are grateful for the leadership of professors JoAnne Broadwater, Stephanie Flores-Koulish, Thom Lieb, Allissa Richardson, Stacy Spaulding and Ronald Yaros in promoting and sustaining student engagement.

Teavolve Our student reviewers were quite self-motivated and seemed to enjoy this opportunity to learn the news of their community, while analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of local journalism. We also found that regular participation by students supported and encouraged thoughtful reviews by our general membership and helped to establish a civil online community.

By hosting live events and awards ceremonies, we were able to strengthen online connections and bring people together in the real world, not just on our site. This combination of education, outreach and recognition helped anchor NewsTrust Baltimore in the local community and made this service more useful for building skills, networks and access to information in Baltimore.


Photo credits: Fabrice Florin


Next steps for NewsTrust Baltimore

Our six-month pilot for NewsTrust Baltimore ends on July 31, and we would like to give you an update of our next steps as wind down this local news experiment.

For the next few weeks, we will continue to publish a series of reports about what we accomplished together during this pilot and what we learned along the way. We will also transition from a staffed website to an automated service with community input. Here's what else will change in coming days.

At the end of this week, on Friday, July 15, we will discontinue our daily email newsletters for NewsTrust Baltimore. The home page of our website will promote our recent reports, along with a daily featured news story. We will still provide news listings below the fold on our home page, as well as on other pages on our site, and NewsTrust Baltimore members will be able to post and review stories on these pages. But these listings will only be curated by our staff on a daily basis until July 31, when our pilot ends.

To prepare for this transition, our last daily email newsletter will go out this Friday. We will continue to offer our weekly newsletters until Wednesday, July 27, highlighting some of the most trusted news stories of the week. If you now subscribe to our daily newsletter, you will automatically receive these weekly newsletters every Wednesday at 2 p.m. Eastern time, through the end of the month. After July 27, we will no longer send any newsletters, since we cannot guarantee their quality without staff curation.  

If getting daily emails from us is important to you, you are welcome to subscribe to our daily MyNews email on our national site, which provides a personalized listing of news stories based on your interests every morning at 6 a.m. Eastern time. This automated service is available free to all NewsTrust members, and it only takes a minute to set up on your MyNews page (if you're not yet a member, read more about MyNews here). To get stories about Baltimore on your MyNews email, simply add Baltimore as a topic, or add Baltimore sources you want to follow in the right sidebar. Of course, you can change any of your email subscriptions at any time, on your Email Newsletters page.

We will also make a few more changes in coming weeks, to make sure that our crowdsourced news listings serve the best interests of our community. For example, stories that have been rated highly by trusted members will be featured more prominently. And NewsTrust members will only be able to post up to five stories per day, to prevent any individual from flooding the site with content that others may not find as useful. If you have any feedback or questions about any of these changes, please contact us at


A new direction for NewsTrust

The end of our Baltimore pilot coincides with some major changes we are making at NewsTrust, as outlined in today's blog post on our national site. At the the recent meeting of our board of directors on June 17, we decided to pivot our nonprofit organization from a standalone news-curation site to a consultancy that will serve the needs of larger partners and help their communities become better informed about important public issues.

Our initial focus will be on fact-checking services, to expose misinformation in the public debate. To that end, we have partnered with the Center for Public Integrity and Craig Newmark to develop for the 2012 U.S. elections. We created this pro-am fact-checking service last year to help citizens and journalists work together to separate fact from fiction. 

News sharing on the web is now primarily taking place on large social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, reducing the need for curated news sites like and NewsTrust Baltimore. As a result, our site traffic has decreased in recent months and we no longer have funding to pay for our daily news curation service, which we offered for the past five years on the national site, with support from foundations and private donors.

Instead, we see an emerging need for quality fact-checking services and collaborative evaluation tools, which we think can effectively provide by extending our innovative platform to serve partner communities on their sites. We will also explore partnerships that enable us to provide news-literacy and civic-engagement services through consumer and educational channels.

This new strategy supports our overall mission to help people find good journalism and credible information online, but it does so more effectively, by shifting our focus to services that can be sustained over time, in collaboration with our partners.

In the meantime, we're deeply grateful for all that you and other community members have done to support NewsTrust Baltimore this year.

Stay tuned for more reports in coming days about what we learned together as a community.


Fabrice Florin
Executive Director and Founder
NewsTrust Communications


Editorial report: Finding good journalism in Baltimore

As the NewsTrust Baltimore pilot winds down at the end of July, we are preparing a series of reports about our local news experiment. For the past five 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. 

In this report, we’ll take a look at the site’s editorial operations and activities, as well as media partnerships. We’ll also make recommendations for future local news sites. Find our first two installments of these reports here and here


How we edit the site

NewsTrust Baltimore was edited by a team of three local staff members: Mary Hartney, local editor; Gin Ferrara, community manager; and Andrew Hazlett, writer/researcher. Community hosts and partners were also invited to lead editorial activities, such as news hunts, as described below. Other contributors to our editorial operations were two national staff members: Jon Mitchell, managing editor, and Fabrice Florin, executive director. 

5531290884_b2534df7bb_m Throughout the pilot, NewsTrust Baltimore was updated with dozens of new stories every day, including weekends and holidays. We posted stories we found newsworthy, from a wide range of sources, by looking at NewsTrust feeds, personal RSS readers, local social media, and the websites of local news organizations. 

The NewsTrust Baltimore home page had seven feature spots at the top of the page, three of which were for an editor’s picks – a large feature spot, with a photo, at the top of the page, as well as one news and one opinion piece in the six-story grid. Our goal was to refresh these picks and the overall home page by about 9 each weekday morning, as our traffic would spike around 10 a.m. On weekends, we aimed to update the site by 11 a.m.

Featured picks were selected with a goal of showcasing a diversity of sources, topics and media types. The main featured story was most often a news story, but opinion pieces were occasionally highlighted. Photo thumbnails were picked from the news organizations whose work we featured, or from sites like Flickr, using a Creative Commons license.

Editors were also responsible for preparing and sending a daily email newsletter to a few hundred email subscribers. This originally went out at noon Eastern time, and it was later changed to 2 p.m. to feature more community reviews from the day. Because of this newsletter, we also saw traffic spike at 2 p.m. on weekdays, as people clicked through to the site from the email. The top of the newsletter featured highlights from that week’s editorial efforts on the site, as well as a list of automatically populated recent news and opinion stories. 

Local staff members also frequently updated the NewsTrust Baltimore blog and Twitter and Facebook feeds. We used the blog to introduce and summarize our editorial activities, as well as to report on interesting work by our partners and community events. We used our social media feeds to promote these blog posts, and we also pointed to stories and good journalism from a variety of Baltimore sources.

In the first several months, we were continually adding new sources and feeds to the site to ensure that all sources of journalism in the area were represented. By the end of the pilot, we had more several hundred sources we regularly scoured, posted and reviewed, and this diversity was reflected daily on the home page. 

The content on the site was constrained geographically – we sought to only include stories about Baltimore City and County, as well as stories that affected the entire state, including news from the state legislature session. At times, those stories came from sources not based in the city or county, including newspapers like the Frederick News-Post and the Hagerstown Herald-Mail writing about statewide news. While there are many excellent news organizations and blogs writing about other areas of the state, the constraints helped us focus what was included on the site and was a necessary distinction, given the resources of this project.


Community activities

During the pilot, we offered a number of activities to engage our members in the editorial process and seek out good journalism as a community about Baltimore and Maryland.


News hunts


In the first several months of NewsTrust Baltimore, we featured weekly news hunts on a variety of topics, and our media and educational partners were often guest hosts during these activities. A news hunt is sort of like a scavenger hunt for good journalism on a given topic, such as transportation or education. During a news hunt, we would aim to feature stories about the selected topic on the home page and to drive members to post and review stories on the topic pages. We previewed each news hunt on the blog, promoted it in the newsletter and on social media, and we posted about the hunt’s findings on the NewsTrust Baltimore blog the following week. 

News hunt topics ran the gamut: 

During a news hunt, we asked guest hosts to post and review at least one story on the topic, and they could also make news and opinion "host’s picks" on the topic pages. These hosts often pointed us to stories and sources we wouldn’t have otherwise noticed, and their reviews and comments added richness to the discussions about journalism on the site. 

In our first politics news hunt, Howard Libit, co-founder of Center Maryland, helped set the tone for the site and pointed us to additional Maryland sources who were covering state politics, including The Gazette suburban newspapers and pieces from the Frederick News-Post.

Libit said of the experience: "While I have always been a consumer of a lot of different sources of news, looking at stories through the NewsTrust filter forced me to think more critically about what is being reported, what is missing, and how stories are written. It was definitely a useful exercise in fine-tuning how I think about coverage of news. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many different media outlets producing so many different quality stories."

Another interesting news hunt was conducted with Urbanite magazine, which was holding a contest about the Red Line, an east-west transit project planned for Baltimore City. Urbanite used NewsTrust Baltimore to collect stories about the Red Line, dating as early as 2004, when the project began to be discussed, as well as more recent coverage about its construction. 

During this weeklong news hunt, Urbanite assistant editor Rebecca Messner posted and reviewed a number of stories about the Red Line on a special co-branded topic page, and Urbanite was able to point its print and online readers to NewsTrust Baltimore to find a historical record of the Red Line project. During that week, we also looked at general transportation stories, a consistently hot topic in Maryland. 

For Urbanite’s "Open City Competition," Messner said, "We're looking for thoughtful designers to make a positive lasting impact on the communities who will be affected by the construction of the Red Line. To do this, they need to see the whole picture, and they need to have access to the best journalism available on the subject. NewsTrust is a great way to make this happen."

When possible, we scheduled a news hunt to coordinate with a news organization’s editorial calendar. During a special two-week news hunt on community, in which we looked at the wide-ranging definitions of the term, we worked with Fern Shen of the Baltimore Brew. The timing of the news hunt matched up with the Brew’s release of a series of articles on "The State of Your Block," a project that sought Baltimoreans takes on their own neighborhoods, and a riff on recent "State of the State" and "State of the City" speeches from Maryland politicians. The publication of these user-generated pieces and our look at community dovetailed nicely.

Another notable news hunt was an in-depth look at youth, part of a partnership with nonprofit and educational partner Wide Angle Youth Media. Several Wide Angle staff members and interns posted and reviewed stories about youth, seeking coverage beyond crime stories about teens or the occasional "outstanding young person" article. It was an enlightening news hunt for both NewsTrust and Wide Angle staff, as well as for our members. 


Other editorial efforts


When we announced our second round of funding for NewsTrust Baltimore, we began to branch out from these weekly news hunts and experimented with other ways of engaging our members around content. In April, we structured a week around promoting long-form journalism that users may have missed. We also drove for reviews on opinion pieces during another week.

There were several weeks where we did not have scheduled news hunts, as we wanted to be nimble and adapt to breaking news. During one of these weeks, William Donald Schaefer, a former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor and comptroller, died at age 87. News organizations began producing droves of extra content – obituaries, news stories about his funeral, and dozens of remembrances of the politician. We were able to respond quickly to the news and set up a Schaefer page to collect these articles. This became a de facto news hunt, and our collection was a popular destination for people wanting to read more about Schaefer’s life and legacy.

Also during that week, we featured a “news comparison” on the home page, which pointed to three different remembrances of the politician and asked readers to compare and contrast the three. We conducted a handful of other news comparisons during the course of the pilot.

In May, we rolled out an ambitious project. We wanted to look at different types of media – print, TV, radio and online – and to see how these different media were covering some of the bigger issues affecting Baltimore. We described this as a monthlong news hunt and envisioned it as a cross-section of media types and specific topics. Each week, we pointed readers to stories and sources from that week’s featured media type and asked for their reviews. 

After each week, we wrote a blog post summarizing our findings and pointing to particularly interesting stories. At the end of the experiment, we compared and contrasted the different media and their coverage and story choices over the course of the month. Over the course of the month, NewsTrust Baltimore editors and community members reviewed 238 stories. Of those, 28 were rated and 27 were determined to be most trusted. These highly regarded stories gave us a sample of the city’s preoccupations and a good sense of how different media cover Baltimore’s most pressing issues.

Additionally, just before kicking off this news hunt, we rolled out a new feature on NewsTrust Baltimore, where members could rate and review news sources, in addition to individual stories. If reviewing story is like reviewing an entrée at a restaurant, then reviewing a source is akin to commenting on the restaurant. May’s monthlong news hunt by medium was an effective way to point users to this new source-rating feature.  




In June, we launched our first local Truthsquad, as part of NewsTrust’s community fact-checking service. We selected a quote to examine, from Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, that Maryland has "America’s number one public school system." Over the course of two weeks, NewsTrust staff and community members voted on whether this statement was true or false and added and reviewed relevant links. 

We had more than 40 participants vote and 16 related stories posted. We also saw several journalists and commentators take part in this Truthsquad, including Kyle Leslie and Lawrence Lanahan of WYPR and Marta Mossburg of the Maryland Public Policy Institute, who is also a columnist for The Baltimore Sun and the Frederick News-Post.

After reviewing the evidence, we found the statement to be "half-true." O’Malley’s claim references a ranking from the newspaper Education Week, a reputable source of news and analysis about schools and the education system, but we used the statement to examine the state of public schools in Maryland and in Baltimore City in particular. 

The Truthsquad was an interesting new way to engage the NewsTrust Baltimore community around a specific issue, and we consider this first local Truthsquad to have been a success.


Media partnerships

5530700693_b2db90fcbf_m NewsTrust Baltimore had a dozen media partners during this pilot, and they helped provide promotion of the project, as well as valuable advice and discussions about journalism in Baltimore.

These 12 partners ran the gamut of media in the Baltimore area, including newspapers, magazines, online sites, radio shows and stations, and blogs. They were Baltimore magazine, the Baltimore Brew, The Baltimore Sun, Bmore Media, Center Maryland, Citybizlist, City Paper, the Marc Steiner Show (WEAA-FM), Baltimore-area Patch sites, Urbanite magazine, the Welcome to Baltimore, Hon! blog, and WYPR-FM.

To solidify these partnerships, we reached out before launch to news organizations in the area and set up meetings. We found that many outlets were curious about this new site, and after launch, we had a second wave of interest from news organizations wanting to work with NewsTrust Baltimore. We signed on three additional partners during the six-month pilot and had conversations with several others. Check out our photos from the "making of NewsTrust Baltimore" to see how we engaged our partners and community.

One key goal of these partnerships was cross-promotion. We talked to news organizations about NewsTrust Baltimore’s ability for newsrooms to continue their conversations with readers and showcase their social media efforts, and we aimed to feature their work on the site. In return, we asked that a news outlet promote the project, and news organizations responded in different ways to the request.

For example, the Marc Steiner Show on WEAA-FM had us as guests on the show, along with a high school student, a college student and a charter school executive director, to discuss the different aspects of NewsTrust Baltimore and review a story on air. We were also interviewed on Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast on WYPR-FM. 

Many partners wrote articles about NewsTrust, including a feature from The Baltimore Sun’s Gus G. Sentementes. Citybizlist ran our news release and promoted NewsTrust Baltimore in its daily newsletter. City Paper published a post on The Nose blog about our objectives, and Bmore Media, Urbanite, Baltimore magazine, Baltimore Brew,  Towson Patch, and Welcome to Baltimore, Hon! all wrote editors’ notes about the partnerships. Center Maryland wrote an editor’s note and featured the partnership in its popular daily newsletter more than a dozen times over the course of the pilot.

Several partners also ran our widgets on their sites, and these were consistently some of our biggest traffic drivers. The Baltimore Sun included NewsTrust Baltimore widgets on its Maryland, Baltimore City, and Baltimore County pages, and The Baltimore Brew had our widgets on its home page. The Marc Steiner Show featured an expanded widget on its home page, and WYPR also included a "share this on NewsTrust" button on its website, as did the Baltimore Brew.

At our community awards ceremony and networking event on June 21, we recognized these media partners and the key staff that helped support NewsTrust Baltimore over the course of the pilot. Those staff members each received a certificate and a NewsTrust mug as a small token of our deep appreciation.  


Recommendations for future sites

Much of NewsTrust Baltimore was modeled after the national NewsTrust site, which provided excellent guidance and best practices for our work. Still, we found that there were some unique challenges and opportunities to operating a NewsTrust site geared toward local journalism, and we have some recommendations for future projects like this one.

One difference we noticed early on was the inclusion of stories. The Baltimore site served as a hub for local news, which meant we posted from a range of stories and sources, instead of serving only as a forum for the best local journalism. We encouraged our members to rate and review stories to help the better stories surface to the top of the page, but we included a large variety at the beginning of each day.

To engage our members, we found that a regular rotation of editorial projects appealing to different groups of people worked well. We recommend that future projects feature a diversity of news hunts, Truthsquads and interesting blog posts, while also leaving room to respond to breaking news and feedback from the community. 

The community has the opportunity to play a stronger role on the site, beyond reviews and ratings. On NewsTrust Baltimore, we found that staff members posted the large majority of stories, and this may have led members to feel they didn’t need to do so. Rewards for posting, as well as more a more intuitive user interface, could help. Community members could also be called upon to help find statements to fact-check using the Truthsquad tools, which would be a great way to ensure political diversity in examining these statements.

NewsTrust Baltimore could have benefited from stronger marketing. While there was a lot of buzz at launch, sustaining that attention and curiosity and converting visitors into members was a critical need. When we added sources to NewsTrust Baltimore, we emailed the writers and publishers to let them know they were included on the site and encouraged them to sign up. Had we had this promotion element in place early on in the pilot, we may have seen more traffic to the site.

For media partnerships, we recommend more specific "asks" of these organizations, as well as the implementation of different member levels. At each tier of partnership engagement, it would be helpful to identify clear benefits for news organizations that help promote the service in bigger ways. 

We also could have defined the news hunt partnerships more clearly throughout the pilot, and we only began doing this during the news hunt about youth. We asked that the guest host organization promote the news hunt on social media a number of times during the week, and we provided language to make this easier. We also asked that the organization include a blurb about the news hunt in its newsletter or on its website. Having pre-defined language, to make available to partners, would have helped the success of these hunts for good journalism.



Because we thought of and described NewsTrust Baltimore as an experiment, we were able to test new strategies and features on the site, and we were nimble enough to make rapid changes and new iterations based on member feedback. We feel the experiment was a success from an editorial and media perspective, and we’re grateful to our members and partners who helped make this happen. 

Stay tuned for our report on our educational activities and partnerships, which we’ll feature next week here on the blog.


Photo credits: Fabrice Florin


The community responds: Our online survey report

In April and May 2011, NewsTrust Baltimore staff invited members, partners and supporters to take a short online survey about our service. We asked them to share their perspectives on the usefulness and impact of our site and to make suggestions for improvements and new features. Here are our findings about this survey.


We collected both quantitative and qualitative data in this brief survey, using tools from the website Survey Monkey. Individuals were asked a combination of multiple-choice and short-answer questions. There were 12 questions total, which could be completed in about 5 to 10 minutes, on average. Questions addressed user satisfaction with the site, frequency of use, areas of strength and weakness, and potential new features. Links to the survey were distributed to all members of NewsTrust Baltimore via email, and emails were also sent to community partners. Public links to the survey were posted on social media, our blog and on the homepage of the site. 

The online survey took place from April 22 through May 6, 2011. In total, 192 people began the survey, and 135 completed it. A smaller, normalized sample of 87 respondents was used for analysis purposes, to feature more diverse responses; this community sample was intended to be more representative of our community, with fewer college student responses. It also excluded NewsTrust staff responses, as well as duplicate or incomplete responses.

1 The survey gave respondents the option to select a user group that best represented them: 50 respondents self-identified as college students, seven were educators, seven were journalists, 14 were unaffiliated members, and the remaining nine were visitors. This breakdown is similar to NewsTrust Baltimore’s overall statistics, with one exception: We experienced a very high response rate from college students, many of whom were encouraged by their teachers and likely driven by NewsTrust incentives, such as our student certification and awards, to complete the survey. The percentage of student members on the NewsTrust Baltimore site is about 40 percent of total members (versus up to 60 percent of total survey respondents). We used this sample for much of the analysis in this report, as well as for the charts.

Key findings

The majority of respondents (about 60 percent) found NewsTrust Baltimore to be personally useful or very useful. Many survey participants thought the project was unique and a valuable complement to existing news sources, as well as a way to identify trustworthy sources for local news. Respondents also told us that they were introduced to several new media outlets via NewsTrust Baltimore, and they said they felt comfortable commenting in what they considered to be a respectful online community.


Based on the pilot stats we collected, we know that NewsTrust Baltimore had many unique visitors (11,215 visitors in its first three months), but fewer people signed up as members (514) and reviewed stories (329). Most survey respondents (85 percent) said they visited the site weekly, and roughly half (52 percent) reviewed stories at least once a week.

When asked which features of NewsTrust Baltimore were most interesting to them, 59 percent of survey respondents said they were interested in finding good local journalism all in one place and 57 percent were interested in discovering local news sources that they hadn’t heard about.

“I like that I pay attention to a wider variety of new stories and outlets because of NewsTrust,” member Kate Bladow wrote in a survey response.

Diana Soliwon, the former editor of Owing Mills Patch, commented that the local site was “very helpful for someone trying to figure out where to get their information in the greater Baltimore area.”


Responses to a question about possible new services shows that respondents’ interests were divided somewhat evenly among activities for college students (49 percent), a suggestion box for new story ideas (47 percent), and a field guide for local news sources (44 percent).


Areas of improvement recommended by many respondents included making the site simpler to use, adding more diverse and entertaining stories, and increasing community dialogue opportunities.

Findings by group

NewsTrust Baltimore serves many groups of people with different backgrounds, interests and approaches to the site. We have filtered the survey findings into groups to examine their different perspectives on NewsTrust Baltimore.

College students

College students were one of our most active groups of members. Of the students in the community sample, 50 percent of them said they visited the site more than once a week, and 48 percent visited the site weekly or monthly. Students were also our largest pool of reviewers, with 30 percent of respondents saying they reviewed stories every few days and 62 percent reviewing stories weekly or monthly.

Students told us that the program was beneficial to their education and future goals. Many of our student participants were studying journalism and made the connection between NewsTrust’s services and their own careers. Fifty-four percent of respondents liked discovering news sources they hadn’t heard about, and 52 percent liked rating the work of other journalists.

Devin Hamberger said in the survey, “I think it is a great way for students to expose themselves to good journalism that not only helps them be critical consumers, but also helps their own writing skills.”

Micah Mohlmann was one of several students who felt that the site improved their own critical thinking: “I have learned how to better analyze and reviews news stories. It has helped me to critique articles in a professional manner.”

Rebecca Jackson wrote, “As a journalism student, looking at the work of local journalists helped me understand the things I need to look for in my stories.”

While students enjoyed learning more about the big issues of Baltimore, they also expressed interest in seeing more multimedia stories and more news that they felt was relevant to their lives.

“I think that having more news sources for young people would make me visit more often,” wrote Megan Flannery in a survey response.

Other students commented that they would like to read and review more stories about sports, entertainment, the arts, health, and beauty. In addition, 78 percent of college students said they would like to see activities specifically for college students on the site.

Kara Duffy suggested, “I would like to see News Trust have some focus on other colleges. It would be cool to have a group where journalism majors in Maryland colleges could post their articles and have other students grade them.”


Our teachers, professors and youth workers used the site primarily as an educational tool. JoAnne Broadwater, a Towson University professor, wrote in a survey comment: “I like it for its usefulness in the classroom. I think that it will help students to be more critical of what they are reading. I also like the concept of requiring them to read news and then evaluate it. Since many students do not read news stories at all, they have difficulty writing news stories and grasping the concept of a carefully constructed story. I think NewsTrust will help them to become better writers.”

While the site saw strong adoption by college students and their professors, some respondents saw a need for more focused attention on high school students. Susan Malone, executive director of Wide Angle Youth Media, wrote, “I would have liked to see more intention to create a youth-centered site where young people can start to digest news in bite-size pieces, that utilizes anonymity so young people can feel more inclined to participate.”

The convenience of aggregating local news was appealing to this group of respondents, with 86 percent of educators reporting that they like being able to find local news all in one place. They were also introduced to new local media organizations, with 71 percent reporting that they discovered new news sources via NewsTrust Baltimore.


For journalists, NewsTrust Baltimore presented an opportunity to engage with their audience in a new way. A large percentage (86 percent) of journalists who took the survey said they visited the site more than once a week, and 46 percent visited daily, though the majority (71 percent) of journalist respondents said they rarely or never reviewed stories.

Stephanie Hughes, a producer at WYPR-FM, found the site to be valuable to her programming: “I like getting direct feedback on the segments I'm working on. NewsTrust responses are especially valuable because I know people are encountering the segments via the web, as opposed to just on air. WYPR is figuring out how to create great content for both on air and online, and it's interesting to see how reactions from online consumers differ -- it helps us to figure out what we can do to enhance the web experience. “

Howard Libit of Center Maryland, a NewsTrust Baltimore media partner and former Baltimore Sun editor, said in a survey response: “It has been interesting to see and read other people's perspectives on the different journalism taking place in the market. I am also learning about some individuals and groups involved in journalism that I was not previously aware of.”

For some journalists, the site offered new opportunities and new questions. City Paper writer and editor Bret McCabe wrote, “I'm just curious as to how best to interact with the feedback generated by this site, because if people are going to the effort of commenting thoughtfully about what they read, it should have some utility in the practice.”

Journalists were one of the more critical groups of respondents regarding the website’s usability. They described it as “cluttered” and asked for “a better job of displaying stories,” as well as “a more attractive site.” These comments were representative of the suggestions for improvements from this group.  


This “members group” includes members who had signed up on the website and who were not included in the other categories, such as partners and students. Their participation spanned the spectrum, with many members visiting the site weekly (43 percent) and half of all members reviewing once a week (29 percent) to once a month (21 percent).

These members said they liked the convenience of finding good journalism in one place (79 percent), and several mentioned their appreciation of the respectful environment on the site.

Gabby Knighton commented, “I like that there is a ’sane’ community of news readers out there. You don't see them as often in the ‘comments’ sections” of other news sites.

Debra Joseph wrote, “I like the transparency, the focus on smart journalism critiques, and the mutual respect among members.”

This group of members also had suggestions for improvements. Some asked us to increase the number of stories and the frequency of refreshing our pages with new articles. We also found that, while some people were critical that we sent too many emails, others wished we sent more. This suggests that a user’s email preferences and settings could be made more clear, so users could easily adjust their communication with NewsTrust Baltimore to their comfort level.


We were fortunate to receive feedback from visitors, partners, community leaders, friends and supporters of the site, people who didn’t consider themselves members but who cared enough about our outcomes to share their thoughts in this survey.

These respondents said they did not review stories often but visited the site frequently (77 percent visited the site at least weekly). Their feedback was thoughtful and specific.

Carl Ehrhardt wrote about the challenges of adding another social network site to his regular use: “Perhaps if NewsTrust were an app for Facebook it would be easier.”

John Walters saw a challenge in the volume of participation on the site and felt that some of the tools,  “like the discussion features, might be useful if there were more users.” Others also expressed this concern about the number of reviewers on the site.

Feedback by activity

In analyzing the survey results, we also looked at how people responded based on their activity on the site. People who said they reviewed stories more than once a week are defined as Active Members, those who reviewed stories weekly or monthly are Basic Members, and people who reviewed rarely or never are considered Visitors for this assessment.

Our Active Members group found the review tools to be a valuable service, with 71 percent of them reviewing stories every few days and 29 percent reviewing stories once a day or more.
Olivia Stephens wrote, “I think it’s a great tool for people to evaluate the news critically and really understand how to find reliable, credible news.”

Active Members also appreciated that NewsTrust Baltimore let them keep up with local news (54 percent) and find everything on one site (50 percent). Lauren Calva commented, “There really isn’t another website, that I know of, that collects local journalism and puts it all in one place.”

The majority (64 percent) of our Basic Members group reviewed stories once a week. They, too, like finding a variety of local news on a single website, but 60 percent also reported that they enjoyed discovering news sources they hadn’t heard about. Basic Members had the greatest number of suggestions for new content and topics.

Our Visitors group did not review stories but visited the site with some frequency, with 49 percent visiting more than once a week. They said they came mainly for the convenience of aggregated local news and are interested in reading a field guide for local news sources.

“The most significant feature for me is NT’s ability to be a trustworthy aggregator of local news,” wrote Michael Catalini, a journalist.


Overall in our collected survey responses, we found that NewsTrust Baltimore was valued as an aggregator of local news, introducing people to new sources and serving as a one-stop daily news site. Members appreciated the rational critique process and the sense of respect for commenters.

NewsTrust Baltimore was also found very useful as an educational tool, helping students build critical media skills, separate fact from fiction, and work on their own writing.

We also learned that there is room for improvement, through streamlining the site, increasing the frequency and diversity of stories posted, and creating more community participation opportunities. There is also a desire for more education resources, both activities for college students and learning tools that are appropriate for high school students.

All of us at NewsTrust and NewsTrust Baltimore appreciate the time and thought that respondents took in answering the survey, and we hope to continue to work together to build a robust, inclusive and relevant news community.


Best in show at Towson University

MCOM407BestInShowWinners2 Yesterday, I was part of a judging panel for projects that demonstrated a semester's worth of research and hard work. I was happy to be part of the Towson University class and was looking forward to seeing what the students had done, after their participation on NewsTrust Baltimore

Each student in Stacy Spaulding's Journalism 407 class, "Writing for New Media," worked a "beat" during the spring semester, focusing on a local topic. By the end of the class, the students had put together web packages of at least three stories and three multimedia pieces that explored the issue. Each student was responsible for the reporting, editing, posting, photography, videography, graphics, site design and final presentation -- a tall order, but the skills that "writing for new media" demands in a changing news landscape.

These students used NewsTrust Baltimore throughout the semester to compile research on their topics, and we found it to be a really valuable and effective use of our site and service.

In yesterday's class, the students gave short presentations about their projects, offering what they believed were the strongest points. I heard a lot of students say they were proud of their reporting, from deep sourcing to telling different sides of an issue, and many were pleased with how their overall sites and packages turned out. One student hand-coded her entire Wordpress site and built an extra page of reference material, as well as a mobile site; another said she worked for two days straight on making sure everything on her site matched her "detail-oriented" expectations. 

The students then voted on four awards -- best reporting, best photos, best multimedia and best overall site -- and the four judges were to determine the best in show. I spent some time reading the students' work before yesterday's class, and I was impressed with the topic choices and work they'd done. The three other judges -- Tyler Waldman of Towson Patch, Nick DiMarco of Lutherville-Timonium Patch, and Cynthia Cooper, the communications chair at Towson -- and I awarded the top overall prize to Jennie Byrne, for her work on Defining Marriage in Maryland.  

We agreed that Byrne told "the story behind the story," delving into what happened to the same-sex marriage bill during the recent Maryland General Assembly session, as well as explaining the work different organizations and people were doing related to the legislation. She discussed the future of the bill and what happened after it was sent back to committee in the House, effectively killing it for the year. Jennie's site design was clean and easy to navigate, and her multimedia added to the stories. She also did a fair amount of "on the ground" reporting, attending meetings and talking at length with key players. Her presentation yesterday was strong, and she didn't let her personal views on the topic affect her reporting or presentation. Great work, Jennie!

The other awards went to: 

Congratulations to all the students in Spaulding's class, and thank you for using NewsTrust Baltimore in your studies!

Find a link to all the projects here and a link here to Spaulding's report on the final awards.


Photo credit: Stacy Spaulding


NTB recognizes students' contributions to finding good journalism

We held our student awards event last night at Towson University, sponsored by the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Students and faculty gathered to recognize the reviewers who provided our local news experiment with the most trusted, relevant and thoughtful reviews.

Three superlative awards were given to the top reviewers: 

  • News Hound: The student with greatest number of trusted reviews.
  • Top Student Researcher: The student with the most trusted reviews who also posted the most stories from a diversity of sources.
  • Most Trusted Reviewer: The student whose reviews are the most trusted by the NewsTrust community.

We also recognized more than 60 students who have become Certified Student Reviewers. These students all reviewed six or more stories, including two we selected for them, and gave thoughtful, critical reviews. In the coming weeks, you may notice a new badge that recognizes these reviewers on the site.

NewsTrust's founder and executive director, Fabrice Florin, joined us for this event, and he thanked the Towson community for their participation and support of NewsTrust Baltimore. He also gave special thanks to the professors who supported the student reviewers: JoAnne Broadwater, Thom Lieb and Stacy Spaulding. Their engagement with the site was instrumental in building student participation.

The gathering concluded with mingling, eating pizza and talking about summer plans. We were happy to hear that many students have internships lined up with news organizations, while others are taking classes or working at summer jobs. We hope these sharp Towson students will continue to be a part of the community now that their coursework is done!

In addition to the Towson awardees, one Loyola University student, RaShawna Sydnor, became a Certified Student Reviewer. We thank her for her thoughtful reviews and enthusiasm for the project and also thank her professor, Stephanie Flores-Koulish, for welcoming us into her classroom.

Here's the complete list of awards and winners:

Most Trusted Reviewer: Anthony E. Laus

News Hound: Devin Hamberger

Top Student Reviewer: Daniel Rodgers

Certified Student Reviewers:

Meghan Ashman, Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, Sara Beegoo, Brittany C. Bell, Kate N. Bernard, Jennie Byrne, Lauren Calva, Mike Campbell, Susan Connelly, Michael Correlli, Cari Crabtree, Megen Donovan, Kara Duffy, Lily Duffy, Raymond Alonzo Durante, Delfina Ezcurra, Nattasha Farr, Amanda Khera Fenell, Megan Flannery, Evelyn Fogleman, Breyana Franklin, Amanda Friedberg, Ashley Gallaher, Erica Glass, Alex Glaze, Ariel Gononsky, Kelly Gray, Jacqueline Gucker, Devin Hamberger, Elizabeth Hardisty, Asia S. Hinton, Samantha Iacia, Victoria Karolenko, Dana Kobilinsky, Melissa Kronenberger, Isobel Kuchinsky, Sarah LaCorte, Anthony E. Laus, Laurel Lewkowitz, Sara Lindemann, Sabrina Lindsey, Edward MacNabb, Marie Moore, Ali Pannoni, Rossella Procopio, Hope Regalbuto, Daniel Rodgers, Brendan Russell, Adam Salk, Dana Satisky, Zachary Schwartz, Lauren Slavin, Olivia Stephens, Hannah Stup, RaShawna Sydnor, Kathryn VandenHeuvel, Josh Venecia, Ashley Ward, Alex Watts, Ashley T. Williams, Jeremy Winn, Kayla Yingst, Alyssa Zauderer. 


We need your feedback: Please take our survey

It's been nearly three months since we began the NewsTrust Baltimore experiment. In that time, our community reviewers have added 2,776 reviews to 1,202 stories! We are thrilled with the participation and enthusiasm of the Baltimore community in our shared quest for good journalism.

Whether you are a reviewer, a reader or a supporter of the project, you're sure to have some opinions of NewsTrust Baltimore. We'd like you to share your perspective with us now, so we can continue to improve the site and ensure that it is a valuable resource. 

Please fill out our short survey today. It only takes about 5 minutes, but it will help us to learn more about how we can be useful to the community. Thanks in advance for your help!

Click here to start the survey.


Awards for top student reviewers

As part of the NewsTrust Baltimore pilot, we want to recognize the work of our community. We will be celebrating the work of our college student reviewers in May, followed by high school reviewers in June. We will also be recognizing journalists and media outlets, as well as our community reviewers, later this summer.

For student reviewers, there is still time to review and post stories, for a chance to win one of the following awards. These awards will be given out separately for high schools and colleges, and at each partner school with eligible students.

Most Trusted Reviewer Award: This award goes to a student that is recognized by NewsTrust editors and the community at large as a thoughtful, critical, unbiased reviewer.

News Hound Award: This award goes to a voracious reviewer, the student member who has done the most reviews (according to our guidelines).

Top Researcher Award: This award goes to the member who posts the most journalism stories from a variety of sources, helping us find good local journalism.



To be eligible for one of these awards, students must also be Certified Student Reviewers. This certification is awarded to any student who does the following:

1. Reviews six stories using the "full rating" form, including a critical, unbiased note with each review. Two of those six reviews must be for the following stories:

Racial Tension Simmers on Martha's Vineyard as Barak Obama Arrives

Opting Out - Kweisi Mfume not running in mayoral race, councilman says

2. The student must be enrolled in high school or college and have signed up for NewsTrust Baltimore through one of our educational partners. If you are a student in the Baltimore area who has not signed up through your school, please email us at baltimore at newstrust dot net to confirm your eligibility.


Prizes and recognition

The students at each partner school who receive the superlative awards of Most Trusted, News Hound and Top Researcher will receive a NewsTrust certificate, a $25 Amazon gift card and a web badge they can add to their blog or website. Certified Student Reviewers will receive a NewsTrust certificate and web badge. These awards will be an excellent addition to a college application or resume!


Deadlines for posting stories and making reviews

College student deadline: April 30, 2011

High school student deadline: May 20, 2011

Thank you for helping us find good local journalism and being part of this experiment!




A focus on youth with Wide Angle Youth Media

This week, we'll conduct a News Hunt for journalism about or affecting youth. Our partner for this is Wide Angle Youth Media, a nonprofit that provides young people in Baltimore with opportunities to tell their own stories using video technology, public speaking and critical thinking skills.

Myra Margolin, program manager at Wide Angle, explains the organization's involvement in this News Hunt:

During this week’s News Hunt, Wide Angle Youth Media will examine how the media portrays youth in Baltimore while challenging the stereotypes that are consistently present in stories and headlines. In what ways are young people being portrayed by the media? What stories are missing? Help us uncover the stereotypes that are perpetuated and the stories that challenge these stereotypes. Find any story about youth in Baltimore and think about youth stereotypes as you write your review.

This News Hunt coincides with Wide Angle's Who Are You? Youth Media Festival at Centerstage in Baltimore. During the month of April, a free exhibit of artwork by over 300 young artists is on display there. On April 30 at 6 p.m., the festival's performance night will feature videos and live performances by youth in fifth through 12th grades. These young people are actively challenging negative stereotypes of youth in our city, and we hope you will join in the effort. 

Wide Angle Youth Media is a nonprofit that provides Baltimore youth with opportunities to tell their own stories. Through after school programs, community events and our annual Who Are You? Youth Media Festival in April, Wide Angle Youth Media strives to make media make a difference.

Stephanie Dickard at Wide Angle Youth Media will be gathering articles on the topic of Youth in Baltimore to post to the Youth and Wide Angle Youth Media pages on NewsTrust Baltimore. Wide Angle Executive Director Susan Malone and Program Manager Myra Margolin, as well as teachers and instructors, interns, and students, will be reviewing articles to engage our community about youth stereotypes and voice in Baltimore.


Doing the right thing at the Baltimore Freedom Academy

Gin and I last week attended a high school symposium called "Do the Right Thing," at the Baltimore Freedom Academy. Walking down the tan hallways covered with bright student artwork, I did not know what to expect, but I soon found myself engaged in a complex conversation about how our daily choices can affect others, both locally and globally. 


The program began in the auditorium, where two high school students and a teacher discussed their work with Art on Purpose and their reflections on the theme. One student, Quorren Bullock, described a painting she'd made depicting a man saving a girl from drowning. Another high-schooler said an example of doing the right thing can be as simple as answering a teacher's question in class when no one else has a hand raised. 

"I think that every student should have the right to dream and have visions without anyone taking that from them," Bullock said on stage. 

We watched an audio presentation in which students interviewed their peers and teachers and asked them to interpret the theme "do the right thing" (borrowed from a Spike Lee film of the same name). The audio was descriptive, and the student-taken photos were evocative. 

Teachers who were interviewed described "putting 100% effort into anything and everything you do" and referenced Socrates' quote, "The unexamined life is not worth living." Students who were interviewed talked about making good decisions related to bullying, dress codes and making fun of teachers. The creators of the presentation also included photos of people who've done "the right thing" throughout history, including Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. Images of civil rights protests in the U.S. were juxtaposed with global events.

I was impressed with a note at the end of the screening that told us that all of the music and images used in the presentation were used for educational purposes and that copyright law was considered -- a small but thoughtful example of doing the right thing. (BFA also had vegan snacks for participants, which was another nice touch.)

Photo After the introduction in the auditorium ended, we split into groups for more personal discussions. Gin and I attended a session on "doing the right thing in your community," hosted by the middle school principal, Danielle Shylit. There were several students in the room, as well as parents, teachers and community members. We were asked to reflect on the "First they came ... " quote from Martin Niemoller, a German pastor who was sent to a concentration camp during World War II. 

Shylit described herself as a "third-generation Holocaust survivor"; her grandparents met in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, and her mother was born there. Shylit was very open about her family's history, telling us that her grandparents chose love over hate. She also told us about some frank discussions she had with her grandmother about race while she was still alive, part of her grandmother changing her worldview in her 80s. 

Group participants applied the quote to current world events, including the revolutions in the Middle East and Africa, and also made links to how individual behavior can inspire change in others. Shylit conducted the session in the Socratic tradition and at one point asked, "In what ways does my identity play into what I believe is the right thing?" 

I thought it was an interesting question, about both our individual identities and our global perspective as Americans. 

As the session wrapped up, Gin and I spoke to Shylit in the hall, and she told us about a song she sings her daughter every night before bed, called "Everything Possible." And then she sang it for us, right there in the hallway, between sessions, with students and parents stopping at times to listen.

It was a powerful and thought-provoking evening, and I left feeling inspired, both by my own reflections on "doing the right thing," and by the evidence of the important work that's happening at the Baltimore Freedom Academy.


Photos by Mary Hartney


Education is the focus every day for our partners

While education is the topic of this week's news hunt, learning is the priority every week for our educational partners. Here are some of the innovative and inspiring projects they have shared with us: 

  • You may have already read about Towson University professor Stacy Spaulding, and her peer-review critique model on our blog. Her colleagues are also using NewsTrust Baltimore in their classrooms. Thom Lieb is working with students to hone their editing techniques in News Editing. We have featured several of their reviews on our home page. JoAnne Broadwater uses NewsTrust Baltimore as a tool in her Mass Communications classes, introducing freshmen to media literacy, and helping her juniors and seniors hone their journalism, media production, and marketing skills.
  • University of Maryland, College Park professor Ronald Yaros is conducting an evaluation of the NewsTrust audience with his students. They are also posting insightful reviews of local news. 
  • At Morgan State University, professor Allissa Richardson received a grant to develop a mobile journalism project. We are looking forward to reading, watching, and listening to their stories, and we hope you will review them with us!
  • If you missed last week's blog post, be sure to check out how Loyola University professor Stephanie Flores-Koulish spreads the media literacy mission.

Our high school partners are busy, as well:

  • Last week the Baltimore Freedom Academy hosted "Do the Right Thing," a presentation and community discussion of ethics and justice. Look for local editor Mary Hartney's post about that inspiring event later this week. 
  • The Baltimore Urban Debate League is planning a debate focused on education themes, using NewsTrust Baltimore as a research tool. Mary and I will be working with Chris Baron to help students learn how to use the site to find reliable information about their debate topics.
  • We're looking forward to our next news hunt, with guest host Wide Angle Youth Media. Their annual Who Are You? youth media festival, which is focused on youth identity, launches this week, and they will be asking for your help to find the best local journalism on youth identity and issues.

If you have found a way to use NewsTrust Baltimore to help your students or community to become more thoughtful news consumers, please let us know. We'd love to share your story!


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.


A commitment to media literacy

As we walked into the classroom, Kim Kardashian’s voice filled the room. She was flirting with her personal trainer, and the students were laughing appreciatively at the sneaker commercial’s double entendres.

While this might seem like strange material for a Master’s course, it’s perfect for Media Literacy Education, a course requirement for graduate students in Loyola University's literacy education program. NewsTrust Baltimore local editor Mary Hartney and I had the pleasure of attending Dr. Stephanie Flores-Koulish’s class a few weeks ago, where the students were analyzing the subtexts in Super Bowl commercials.

By analyzing and exploring contemporary media of all sources, Flores-Koulish says that she intends to "prepare teachers to consider literacy beyond traditional texts, towards visual and multimedia literacies."

"I tend to use hands-on approaches whenever possible," she said. This includes the analyses of television commercials, students producing their own public service announcements, and a class trip to the Newseum for an immersive news experience.

Fortunately for us, it also means using NewsTrust Baltimore to explore local journalism.

As part of the course requirements, students respond to questions and reflect on assignments on an online discussion board, and Flores-Koulish integrated NewsTrust Baltimore into the plan. Her students reviewed one of three selected articles on our site and re-posted their comments on the discussion board.

RaShawna Sydnor, a graduate student in education, said of the experience, "Concept-wise, NewsTrust was an important element because it made you 'part' of the news, not just a spectator."

Melanie Maisey, a kindergarten teacher at Southwest Baltimore Charter School, said: "I appreciated the depth of the questions asked when we reviewed an article. The thoroughness of not only what was asked, but how it was asked, prompted deeper thinking." 

For Flores-Koulish, the ultimate goal of teaching is to spread media literacy. "I firmly believe in the power of grassroots movements, and teaching teachers this new field falls in line with that belief," she said. 

From her own research, she has seen that her "students' eyes are opened by this material, and many are compelled to include it in their teaching." 

Her students seem to agree. Sydnor said that "having students gain the ability to recognize the differences between news and opinion and gauge tone, frame, and intended audience, is an insight that very many adults don't have, and I believe that the earlier they are introduced the better."

Maisey recognizes the importance of understanding the motivations behind media. "It is not only important to be able to empathize with the subject, situations, and people, it is also important to stand in the shoes of the journalist." 

She thinks that this helps people ask critical questions and "dig deeper to find a truth that is less biased and more personal."

Sydnor has a dream of opening a charter school for girls and sees media literacy as a core element of their education. "Critical literacy will help shape how they see themselves in the world and, with any hope, trigger the ambition to change and educate others,” she said.

As media’s role continues to increase in our lives, the need to understand it will grow, as well. Fortunately, Flores-Koulish and her students are ready to teach. 


Following the Red Line: A summary of the transportation news hunt

MTARedLineGetting around Baltimore doesn't seem very easy these days.

The local news offers plenty of evidence that transportation is a major concern in the city. We see terrible collisions between cyclists and cars and some of the worst rush-hour traffic in the nation. At the same time, offerings like the Charm City Circulator have proved popular (maybe too popular) and major plans are afoot to build the Red Line -- a new public transit route planned along the city's east-west axis.

The Red Line project has been discussed, debated, protested and applauded for several years. It now appears to be taking shape as a light rail connection running from western Baltimore County, through downtown (and underground), and into the eastern suburbs of the city. Last week, in collaboration with our media partners at Urbanite magazine, we began a news hunt for coverage of the Red Line and transportation issues in general.

The magazine is taking a step beyond journalism to launch "The Urbanite Project: Open City Challenge" -- a competition for community-enhancing project ideas. With a number of partners, including the Maryland Transit Administration, Urbanite is "inviting self-organized teams to compete for $10,000 in prize money (provided by the MTA) and the chance to implement their solution to a pressing city issue: the quality-of-life issues brought about by the construction of the Red Line."

You can read more about the contest on Urbanite's website

Over the past week, Urbanite assistant editor Rebecca Messner joined members of the NewsTrust Baltimore community in collecting, posting and reviewing stories about the Red Line project and Baltimore's other transportation issues. Rebecca told us that Urbanite's Open City Challenge is "looking for thoughtful designers to make a positive lasting impact on the communities who will be affected by the construction of the Red Line."

"To do this, they need to see the whole picture, and they need to have access to the best journalism available on the subject," she said.

The NewsTrust community is off to a great start in assembling that "whole picture." In our news hunt we gathered a wide array of news stories and opinion pieces

Some are very recent, while others highlight key moments in the contentious history of the project. To date, our community has gathered 39 stories covering aspects of the the Red Line project and related issues. Also during the week, community members weighed in on general transportation stories.

In April, Urbanite will intensify its coverage of these topics and use NewsTrust Baltimore to compile the best background stories on the Red Line. As a result, we expect this collection to grow much more in the weeks ahead. Please join us in building an information resource for everyone concerned about transportation in Baltimore. In the meantime, here are some of the highlights from the list of stories we've found so far.


Recommended stories


Good Day Sunshine (reviews) - Arbutus Patch

Efficient Charm City Circulator services tourists and underprivileged Baltimoreans (reviews) - The Greyhound

LaHood says high-speed train plan won't be derailed (reviews) - Baltimore Sun

MTA hires Red Line community liaisons (reviews) - Baltimore Sun

Canton Organizing To Oppose Transit Plan (reviews) - Baltimore Sun  


Red Line "East Side" video (reviews) - Red Line Project

Listen: Moving stories about getting around Baltimore (reviews) - Greater Greater Washington

Expand Baltimore’s free Charm City Circulator buses (reviews) - Baltimore Brew


Featured topic
Any news related to the transportation is sure to draw attention and comment from people living in Baltimore. Indeed, the stories highlighted in the news hunt drew some interesting reactions from the NewsTrust community. Reviewer and Towson University student Katherina Capon took note of an August 2010 story about a rally for local hiring on Red Line construction. She said: "This story gave a different view than others that I have read. It really discussed how the project would help the people of Baltimore by giving them jobs."

Stacy Spaulding, a Towson journalism professor, and Khalilah Harris, executive director of the Baltimore Freedom Academy, responded to Katherina and agreed that the article brought to light a different aspect of the news.

Another Towson University student, Rossella Procopio, found, posted and reviewed an opinion piece published in June 2010 by The Baltimore Brew's Gerald Neily. Rossella called it "a helpful general introduction to the Charm City Circulator for those who want to learn the basics."

"The article brings up an interesting point on whether the Circulator is actually innovative or simply redundant, and makes some suggestions on how to implement a new transportation system," she wrote.

All our news hunts are really just week-long snapshots of major subjects that have long histories and resurface often in Baltimore and Maryland. The issues surrounding the Red Line are no exception.  In this case, with the continuing partnership with Urbanite magazine, we're stressing the open-ended nature of the news hunt and asking our readers, reviewers, and partners to continue finding and reviewing journalism about the Red Line.  


The NewsTrust community
We are grateful to all the volunteers readers, reviewers and partners who are making NewsTrust Baltimore into a key resource. Your contributions are helping people in our community find valuable information about pressing issues. 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: Maryland Department of Transportation


NewsTrust Baltimore Meetup: Good conversations about local journalism

We stepped away from our computers Tuesday evening and headed down to Teavolve in Harbor East for our first meetup with the NewsTrust Baltimore community: partners, journalists, members, and Baltimoreans invested in good journalism. We wanted to celebrate the extension to the pilot and to have the chance to just chat with each other about Baltimore, journalism, and our role as members of the broader community.

NewsTrust's founder and executive director, Fabrice Florin, was in town, and he was thrilled to attend the event. He’s a fearless photographer and arranged a photo project where each person was asked, "Why does Baltimore need good journalism?" Fabrice took photos of each person holding a card with their answer, and over the course of the evening, we noticed some key ideas kept recurring.

Kevin Kevin Moreno, Baltimore Community Foundation program officer and blogger for Unsung Baltimore, wrote, simply, "We deserve it." There were several people, including Hal Malone, Spanish services coordinator for Friends of the Family, who agreed that good journalism is critically important.

Watchdog coverage of government was a popular theme. Gina Davis, who works in media relations for McDaniel College, wrote: "Keep ‘em honest." Tim Hill, online editor of City Paper, expanded on the subject and wrote: "When power know it's not being watched, it consumes the powerless." 

Focusing on our role as consumers in the news
Micheleecosystem, Michele Baylin of the Maryland Humanities Council wrote, "Because an informed public leads to a more 'civiclly' engaged public!"

We gathered informally in small groups to discuss the ideas and to make new connections. I talked with Gordon Steen about the changing trends in journalism and the value of providing links in online news to give the full story, and with Amy Kozak about the need to practice thoughtful civic dialogue.

Our local editor, Mary Hartney, talked with Towson Patch’s Tyler Waldman about how his friends in Japan are faring after the earthquake and tsunami, and she also spoke with Christopher Siple about his interest in local government and nightlife coverage.

Andrew Hazlett, NewsTrust Baltimore's writer and researcher, had great discussions with Bmore Media editor Neal Shaffer and Baltimore Sun community coordinator Steve Earley about the project's benefits to journalists and news outlets. 

Unlike our national parent site,, which draws members from across the globe, we are fortunate to be a local community and to have opportunities to connect with each other face to face. Each time we meet with our friends, partners, and reviewers, we gain insight about the project and find ourselves re-energized. We look forward to more meetups and great conversations in the future! Thank you to those who attended and gave us valuable feedback about the project.

For more photos, check out our new photo page on NewsTrust Baltimore.


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.  


Recommended stories


Silver Lining (reviews) - Urbanite

A new day at Baltimore's City Springs (reviews) - Baltimore Brew

Community to Have Its Say in TU Presidential Search (reviews) - Towson Patch

Lt. Gov. Brown’s grandmother was an illegal immigrant (reviews) - Maryland Reporter

Science education lacking in Maryland (reviews) - Baltimore Sun

Supreme Court Rules for Military Protestors (reviews) - WJZ

Teen Electrocution Death Exposes City’s Decaying Wiring System (reviews) - Afro

Baltimore Officials Grant Lowes/Walmart 25th Street Station Development Project Stormwater Management Waiver (reviews) - Baltidome

Towson U. journalist says campus newspapers were stolen to prevent spread of controversial story (reviews) - Baltimore Sun


O Brother, Where Art Thou? (reviews) - City Paper

Don't like potholes? Pony up (reviews) - Baltimore Sun

Get In On It (But Don't Get In It) (reviews) - City Paper 

Carbonation Without Representation (reviews) - North Baltimore Patch


Featured topic
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."

Read these and other sharp reviews of the piece here. The similarly excellent discussion around WBAL Radio's story from the same day makes for an interesting comparison.

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?"

Rossella Procopio asked, "What were the so-called 'administrative issues' that led to the eventual grant loss?" Journalists and commentators are continuing to look into these questions. 

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


The first six weeks of NewsTrust Baltimore

As we hit the midpoint of March, we're a month and a half into the NewsTrust Baltimore pilot, and this is a good opportunity to take a step back to see how this social news experiment is going.

Let's start with the stats. In the first six weeks of this project, we've had more than 6,000 visitors to the site, with more than 12,000 visits, and nearly 60,000 page-views. On average, NewsTrust Baltimore users spend nearly 6 minutes on the site per visit -- wow! That tells me that our members are very engaged, which we also see from their thoughtful comments and reviews. We have nearly 500 members at this point, and more than 300 of those are reviewers. We're delighted that these numbers exceed our goals!

We've set some additional goals for ourselves for the extension of this project, which will run through July, and we're well on our way to hitting those marks. Our media and educational partners continue to help us grow, by promoting this project, sending us visitors and asking their communities to review stories on NewsTrust Baltimore.

We're grateful that our members continue to support this social news experiment, as well. NewsTrust Baltimore reviewers are leaving thoughtful reviews across the site -- check out these blog posts for examples -- and helping post stories from a variety of news sources covering Baltimore and Maryland.

As we move forward, we want to stay connected to our community, and we always welcome your feedback. Are we missing any sources that you like to read online? Have we missed news stories that are important to you? Would you like us to work with your school or educational program? Let us know how we can help and improve. You can always leave a comment on the blog or send us an email at baltimore-at-newstrust-dot-net.

If you haven't already signed up for NewsTrust Baltimore, please do so. To stay up to date with the latest news and information about this project, we recommend you sign up to get our daily and weekly newsletters, which you can sign up for in your "my account" area, in the emails tab. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for helping make this experiment a success!


News hunt on transportation and the Red Line

This week, we're conducting a news hunt on transportation, with a special look at the Red Line, the east-west transit project in Baltimore. Our partner in this search for good journalism is Urbanite magazine, which has just launched this year's Urbanite Project, focused on ideas that address quality-of-life issues brought about by the Red Line. Read more about the project here.

The Red Line has been an abstract project and subject of debate for more than half a decade -- Would it be bus lines? Rail lines? Underground or above? What would the exact route be? Who are its customers?Our news hunt on the Red Line will help pull together various reports from the past several years that will help put the project into a larger context. Rebecca Messner, a writer and editor at Urbanite, will be helping gather those articles and post them to the Red Line and transportation pages on NewsTrust Baltimore.

But we need your help, too. Do you recall good stories that helped explain the Red Line? Or perhaps you know of bloggers from Canton and Fells Point who have been vocal about the proposals. Help us find good coverage about the Red Line and post and review those on the site. 

This news hunt won't just be about the Red Line, however. This is an opportunity to take a look at some larger transportation issues, including commuting, public transit woes, road infrastructure, and even cycling. Please join us in finding and discussing these articles -- and we'll see you on the site!


Reviewers take a look at news about addiction in Baltimore

As we wrap up our second week focused on community, I’d like to share some of the notable reviews on one particular story made by OUR community -- by reviewers like you!

An Urbanite magazine article, “On the Trail of Addiction,” about a new study under way to track drug addiction in Baltimore, has been reviewed many times, thanks to Professor Ronald Yaros' Understanding News Audiences course at the University of Maryland (one of our educational partners). His journalism students contributed very interesting assessments.

Matt Ford breaks down the qualities of good journalism in the story: “First, it takes scientific studies and processes that may be difficult to understand and explains them. Second, it uses several sources. Third, it discusses a local story that is relevant to anyone who lives in Baltimore.“

Elizabeth Klinck felt that the story was good journalism in many ways, but she also said that “the paragraphs are too long and technical” and that “I feel that the mapping technology is the most interesting part of this story and should be up way higher.”

Another student, Danielle Chazen, pointed out that “the graphics included at the bottom are also very informative and present the information in an innovative, visual way.”

One reviewer added links in her review of the article, which is a nice option to point to previous coverage or additional sources. Lucy Qian posted a Baltimore Sun story about heroin users from 2008 that actually quotes an even earlier story, from 1998. Her links help other reviewers get more information on the subject and become more informed news consumers.

The overall score for “On the Trail of Addiction” was a 3.8, with the highest marks for facts, fairness, and sourcing, and the lowest marks for writing style. Take a look for yourself, and let us know if you agree.

I hope these reviews inspire you to add your thoughts to this article or one of the many others on NewsTrust Baltimore!

NewsTrust Baltimore extension and meetup

We have big news to share -- the NewsTrust Baltimore experiment has been extended an additional four months through the end of July! We're thrilled to have more time to continue to build this community and work with our educational and media partners to help increase news literacy in Baltimore. We plan to use the extra time to do some more interesting work on the site and in classrooms and to continue to evaluate the quality of local journalism.

This funding comes from the Open Society Foundations, which decided to award a second grant to NewsTrust Baltimore -- and their decision is thanks in part to partners and community members like you!

To celebrate the extension, we're holding an informal meetup at Teavolve in Harbor East on Tuesday, March 15, from 5 to 7 p.m. This will be a chance to meet others in the NewsTrust Baltimore community, as well as to simply chat, hang out and let us know your feedback and thoughts on how this experiment is going. NewsTrust's founder, Fabrice Florin, will be in town, and he's looking forward to spending some time with the Baltimore community.

Please join us on Tuesday -- you can RSVP at this Eventbrite page.


Finding inspiration in critiques

One of the pleasures of NewsTrust Baltimore has been the opportunity to work with local partners --the educators, community groups and media organizations that inspire our work and keep us connected to Baltimore. Our educational partners are a particular source of inspiration, and we love visiting classrooms to see how NewsTrust can teach journalistic and criticism skills.

In Dr. Stacy Spaulding's course “Writing for New Media,” Towson University journalism students are using NewsTrust Baltimore to help them research their news beats. Each student has a topic to follow and review and is also writing his or her own stories on that subject.

Lauren Slavin, a Towson journalism major and an editor at The Towerlight, Towson's student newspaper, said that reviewing articles on NewsTrust Baltimore helps to "truly evaluate what it is you're reading and how it measures up with what solid journalism should be.”

“It's funny how many lingering questions stories from the most reputable of publications leave after you're done reading,” she said. “As a journalist covering similar topics in a course about investigative reporting, it helps you realize what new information you want to bring to your readers."

Spaulding has taken the process a step further by using the NewsTrust review model as a framework for developing an evaluation rubric. Beginning with her own research on minimal grading and peer writing evaluation, she adapted our Full Review form and changed some of the evaluation criteria to better fit her objectives.

She sees this as a practical measurement system that gives the students real-world expectations. One of her goals is to "get students away from thinking, 'Is this A, B or C work?’ … and to get them to begin thinking, 'Is this good journalism?'"

For the students, this is a new way to approach their coursework. Katie VandenHeuvel, a Towson journalism major, said: "Because it's hard to say what the difference is between an A- and  B+ in writing it's become a lot easier to just ask, 'Is this good journalism?' Because if it is, it always will be good journalism and deserves to be graded as so."

Spaulding also has the students review each others’ writing. "I put students in groups of three and have them review three stories from the other class section. They like working in groups and discussing the stories. They ’grade‘ the stories, and then I review each score and add my own comments," she said.

VandenHeuvel sees the rubric as a helpful tool for evaluating other students. "You can't be too easy or too hard on the other students when there are questions that ask you to describe why you rated the story the way you do."

Slavin sees peer reviews as a valuable learning experience. "Having classmates point out what specific values you may be missing from a story or reading their work for similar values just lets you grow that much stronger as a reporter," she said.

Spaulding plans to continue to adapt this strategy this semester and hopes to see the benefits to the students' overall progress. "Since students are catching writing, style, attribution errors, it allows me to focus on reporting, how their work connects to their project, and the big-picture successes/challenges they're facing."

We’re delighted by Spaulding’s creativity in adapting NewsTrust to the classroom and by her students' positive response to the process. We hope we can support your goals, as well, whether becoming a more informed news consumer to honing your own journalism skills, to connecting with a community of others who value good journalism. We’d love to hear your stories of how NewsTrust Baltimore has made a difference in your life.


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!



Community: What's in a word?

How do you define community? Is it something a group of people have in common -- a shared interest, religion, profession, sexual orientation, or income level? Or do you think of a community as something physical: a neighborhood, a block, a school district? Can you find a sense of community online or does it only really happen face-to-face? Can we choose our communities or are we born into them? 

On NewsTrust Baltimore, we'll spend the next two weeks examining the idea of community and discussing and featuring stories that affect different groups of people in the Baltimore area. 

Our host for the community topic this week is Fern Shen, editor and publisher of The Baltimore Brew. Fern will post and review stories, as well as make "picks" on the community page, and I'm eager to see how she'll help us expand our ideas of community on the site.

The Brew is one of several sites in Baltimore helping re-invent community journalism and coverage of communities (check out the "news near you" neighborhoods section for some of this work), and it's a natural fit for a partnership on this topic. 

Brew This focus coincides with the Brew's publication this week of a series called "The State of Your Block," a riff on the mayor's and governor's recent annual speeches. Brew editors asked readers and residents to send in reports about their Baltimore City neighborhoods, and writers whose reports are published get a bag of Zeke's coffee and a $50 donation to the charity of their choice. 

Additionally, the Maryland Institute College of Art partnered with the Brew on the project, and MICA photography students shot photos of the neighborhoods and residents to accompany some of the pieces.

Take a look at the first State of Your Block, a short piece of prose about an area just north of The Avenue in Hampden, by resident Michael Ter Avest. 

Because we're so community-oriented on NewsTrust -- we depend on members like you to contribute to the site and help make it a success -- this is a particularly interesting topic to tackle, and I hope the discussion will be engaging and diverse. We'll post our findings during the week of March 14. Please join the conversation on the site!


Photo credit: Fern Shen, The Baltimore Brew


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. 


Kicking off week 3: How we're doing so far

In our first two weeks, NewsTrust Baltimore has had more than 25,000 page-views, with more than 5,000 visits from 2,800 unique visitors -- wow! It's thanks to our dedicated members and media partners that we had such a strong launch, and activity on the site continues to grow. 

Our community now includes more than 300 registered members, 169 of whom are reviewers -- together, we have posted more than 759 story reviews so far. Many of our members are adding thoughtful ratings and comments, and they include Tina CarrollMichael Corbin, and Laura Perkins. As a community, we're discovering some of the best local journalism in Baltimore.

In the first week, we highlighted news about politics, and our second week focused on business. You can read more here about the results of our politics news hunt, and we'll feature a roundup on business news on this blog later this week.

This week, we'll discuss science and technology news, with a specific spotlight on technology. We're off to a good start, with news about Baltimore's Civic Hack Day, a new wireless "triple play," and electric cars.

We've also had a warm welcome from Baltimore-area news organizations, including many stories from our media partners. Check out our press page for more info, and here are two stories that stand out: 

We're continually working to add more sources, particularly independent media outlets and blogs. Our source page is here, organized by medium, and we welcome your suggestions and additions. Please leave a comment below and let us know who we're missing.

I'd also like to introduce Andrew Hazlett, who just joined NewsTrust Baltimore as a writer and researcher. You'll see his posts and reviews around the site, and he'll also be pitching in with our Twitter feed and Facebook page. Please follow and "like" us to keep up with what's happening on the site.

As always, thank you for your interest in this social news experiment. Please sign up and get involved on the site if you haven't yet had a chance -- our success depends on the participation of members like you. 


Results of politics and Maryland Legislature news hunts

Omalley2 In our first week at NewsTrust Baltimore, we focused on politics and, specifically, the Maryland General Assembly. We asked the community to help us find good journalism on these topics, from Monday, Jan. 31, through Sunday, Feb. 6. We were fortunate to have a wonderful guest host, Howard Libit, a founder of Center Maryland, who previously worked at The Baltimore Sun as reporter and editor for 15 years.

It was a great week to talk about politics on NewsTrust Baltimore. In statewide news, Gov. Martin O'Malley gave his State of the State speech on Thursday, Feb. 3, and several key topics were up for debate in the General Assembly. We also had some interesting discussions surrounding Baltimore City politics, including stories on East Baltimore Development Inc., Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's plans for the city and a look at the selection process of City Council members. 

During the week, 74 stories about politics were reviewed by our community. Of those, 24 were rated and 23 were listed as "most trusted." 

Recommended stories
Here are some of our top rated stories on Baltimore politics last week:



Featured topic
We drilled down into the Maryland General Assembly during this week and found sources from across the state that had compelling things to say about the governor, the Assembly and state politics. 

Howard Libit, our host for this topic, sought and posted stories from a variety of sources, including the Hagerstown and Frederick newspapers, The Gazette community newspapers, as well as pieces from Baltimore heavyweights like The Baltimore Sun, WYPR and The Daily Record. Libit said of the experiment:

"While I have always been a consumer of a lot of different sources of news, looking at stories through the NewsTrust filter forced me to think more critically about what is being reported, what is missing, and how stories are written. It was definitely a useful exercise in fine-tuning how I think about coverage of news. I was pleasantly surprised to see so many different media outlets producing so many different quality stories."

Trusted member Christopher Siple pointed out a theme about Maryland's leadership in Baltimore Sun editorials, Kevin Moreno said that a column on Republian "rising stars" offered "brief but interesting perspectives on a group of legislators who stand poised to impact not only their party, but state policy as well," and Rebecca Ruggles offered some reasoned criticism of businesses' contributions to state funding.

In their reviews of other political stories last week, NewsTrust Baltimore community members also posted a number of thoughtful comments about The Daily Record's informative series of investigative reports on EBDI development, Sun Magazine's profile of Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and an editorial on police and firefighter unions in Baltimore City.

News comparison
We also put together a "news comparison" of State of the State coverage on Thursday afternoon, just a few hours after O'Malley's noon speech. We asked reviewers to rate and compare an Associated Press story, a Baltimore Sun blog post and a Washington Post story

The Washington Post story received the highest marks, with a rating of 3.8, and it had the most context and depth. The Baltimore Sun post had the second-highest rating, of 3.6, and the Associated Press piece had the lowest, at 2.7. However, we should take into account the time-stamps on the three stories: The Post story was last updated close to midnight that day, and it likely mirrors what was published in Friday's newspaper. (The URL was likely kept the same from earlier updates to later write-throughs.) The Baltimore Sun blog post was posted at 4 p.m. the day of the speech, and the Associated Press story was published just two hours after the speech ended. The longer time frames of the Post and Sun stories accounts in part for their context and depth, although two hours can be enough time to add in some quotes and analysis in the AP's case. 

Thanks to our reviewers
We'd like to thank all the NewsTrust community members who participated in helping post and review politics stories, and another big "thank you" to Howard Libit for his involvement. Covering such a key topic as politics in the first week of NewsTrust Baltimore's launch had its share of challenges, but we found some excellent journalism about Baltimore City and the state, and we'll continue to discuss politics throughout the pilot, even as we focus on other subjects. 

This week, we're seeking good journalism about business and real estate development, and we appreciate your involvement. If you haven't already, please sign up as a member of NewsTrust Baltimore; the success of this social news experiment depends on the participation of people like you. We're also making an effort to ramp up our coverage of independent sources and their work, and we encourage you to post stories from sources we may not yet be aware of. 

Thank you again, and see you on the site!


Photo Credit: The Baltimore Sun

This blog post was updated on Feb. 16 and 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!


Welcome to NewsTrust Baltimore!

Today, we are pleased to announce the launch of NewsTrust Baltimore, the first local news site from NewsTrust, our nonprofit social news network.

We invite you to join this online experiment, along with other Baltimore residents, to find and share good journalism about your community.

Why NewsTrust Baltimore?
The Internet has radically changed the way we get our news, introducing new problems for cities like Baltimore: Traditional media have reduced their local news coverage, new media startups are struggling to fill in the gaps, and social networks are flooding us with too much unreliable information.

To address these problems, NewsTrust Baltimore aims to feature on a single site the best news coverage in the region, selected from a wide range of local online, print and broadcast outlets. Our online news hub, which is funded by the Open Society Foundations, welcomes all Baltimore citizens to rate and discuss local news stories, in collaboration with NewsTrust editors -- and share the best reporting with each other.

Meet our team
I am delighted to introduce our local team, which will be leading this experiment for the next few months:

Mary Mary Hartney - Local Editor
Mary has been a journalist for nearly a decade, beginning as a newspaper copy editor and most recently serving as director of audience engagement at The Baltimore Sun. She is responsible for updating our site and managing relationships with our media partners. Check out her profile.

Gin Gin Ferrara - Community Manager
Gin has been a media educator since the early 1990’s and is the founder of Wide Angle Youth Media. She is responsible for supporting our online community and managing relationships with our educational partners. Check out her profile.

Our national NewsTrust team has worked hard to develop this site and community relations in the past few months, and will also participate actively in this pilot. They include: managing editor Jon Mitchell; lead engineer Subramanya Sastry; technology director David Fox; and yours truly, executive director Fabrice Florin.  

Meet our partners
For this project, we have partnered with a number of local news organizations, including the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore magazine, The Mark Steiner Show (WEAA-FM), Urbanite Magazine and WYPR-FM, as well as online sites, including Baltimore Brew, Center Maryland, Citybizlist and Baltimore-area Patch sites. These media partners will invite their audiences to participate in this interactive quest, and many will host special activities with us, as well as include NewsTrust feeds and widgets on their sites.

We are also partnering with several local colleges and high schools, including Towson University, the University of Maryland, Morgan State University, the Baltimore Freedom Academy and The Baltimore Civitas School. These educational partners will train their students to rate and curate the news on their own group pages, earning certificates for their work.

Our most important partner of all is the Open Society Foundations, especially its audacious team in Baltimore. We are particularly grateful to Lori McGlinchey, Diana Morris and Debra Rubino for their vision, insights and inspiring support of this project. Besides providing funding for NewsTrust Baltimore, they have participated actively as collaborators, introducing us to their community, and making us feel welcome in Charm City.

Meet our community
This experiment is first and foremost about Baltimore and its community. Already, hundreds of folks have contributed to this project, including local citizens, community leaders, advisors and partners, all of who took the time to share their thoughts with us and participate on our site. You can view some of their portraits on a special slide show we created for this project, Faces of Baltimore, as well as on our members page.

We think this initiative offers a unique opportunity for Baltimore citizens to become better informed and more engaged about local issues -- especially college and high school students. Our service will show them how to tell apart good journalism from misinformation, so they can become more discerning news consumers.


Join the experiment
We hope you will sign up and participate in this fascinating investigation of our local news ecosystem. With your support, we think this community-based social network can improve the way we get our local news and help us all make more informed decisions as citizens.

Give it a try -- and review a story today. This week, we are reviewing stories on politics -- as Mary explains in her blog post. Our two-month pilot only runs until the end of March 2011, so now is the time to get involved. We will release our first findings in April and give awards to news outlets that are providing high-quality reporting, as determined by our reviewers and editors.

Please join us on NewsTrust Baltimore. See you online!

Fabrice Florin
Founder and Executive Director
NewsTrust Communications


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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