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April 2011

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.


Introducing source reviews on NewsTrust

Today we're pleased to announce a new NewsTrust feature: You can now rate or review news sources on our site, in much the same way as you review individual stories. If reviewing a story is comparable to rating individual dishes at a restaurant, then source reviews are like rating the restaurant itself -- like you might do on Google, Yahoo or Yelp.

Source reviews combine a quick trust rating with a thoughtful note about the source's journalistic strengths, weaknesses and areas of expertise.

We've already begun using valuable information our users have added to calculate these trust ratings, and we encourage you to refine your ratings of news sources whose work you're familiar with.

This feature has two key applications: source reviews and rating your sources.


Source reviews 

To review a source, click on its name anywhere on the site to go to that source's profile page. Then fill in the "Review this source" form in the middle of that page.

The source review form has three parts:

  • Rate it: Do you trust this publication? (Rate it on a scale from 1 to 5.)
  • Add a note: What are this source's strengths and weaknesses?(Write an open-ended comment.)
  • Expertise: Which topics is this source an expert on? (Click all that apply -- or add more topics in the box below.) 


To review a source, click on its name anywhere on the site to go to that source's profile page. Then fill in the "Review this source" form in the middle of that page. Once you've saved your review, you can go back and edit it anytime. 

You will also see reviews from other members on source pages:

For more detailed information on source reviews, check out our FAQ


Rate your sources

On our "rate your sources" page, you can rate our most popular news sources all in one place. Each source has a quick-rating area, where you can rate a news outlet on a scale of 1 to 5. You may see that some are already filled out; that's feedback you've already given us. If your ratings have changed as you've read more news, please update them and add more!



Thanks to our team

We'd like to thank Engineering Manager Subbu Sastry and Designer Caleb Waldorf for their hard work on these applications. Executive Director Fabrice Florin and Managing Editor Jon Mitchell also played key roles in development, and the NewsTrust team is excited about the rollout of these features.

We welcome your feedback on these changes -- feel free to leave a comment below or send an email to feedback at newstrust dot net.

To jump to rating your sources, click on the badge below.


Thanks for your participation!


Results of our latest politics news hunt

Just a day after we concluded our most recent news hunt on politics, news broke that William Donald Schaefer, former Baltimore mayor and Maryland governor, had died at age 89.

In testament to his profound influence, there has been an explosion of related coverage across the local media. To help people sort through the volume of commentary and news stories, we've established a special topic page to collect the best journalism about Schaefer. Please visit and help us highlight the most compelling stories.

Last week's news hunt around politics turned up a rich variety of news and opinion from the Baltimore media landscape. (This was our second news hunt on politics; the first took place during the first week NewsTrust Baltimore was live. Read more about those results here.) During last week's hunt, which took place from April 11 to April 17, 2011, the NewsTrust Baltimore community reviewed 53 stories in the politics category. Of these, 12 received a NewsTrust rating and 12 were considered above average.


Recommended stories




News comparison: Maryland General Assembly wrap-up

Last week's political news was dominated by the April 11 conclusion of the Maryland General Assembly's 2011 session. We conducted a "news comparison" on the homepage to look at coverage summarizing the final day of the General Assembly session from WYPR, The Baltimore Sun and WBAL Radio

All three stories were highly praised, but reviewers were most impressed with the facts gathered and sourcing of the Sun's coverage. Julie Bykowicz and Annie Linskey's story edged out the others with a 3.8 NewsTrust rating. WBAL Radio received a 3.6, and WYPR's story got a 3.5. Reviewer and media partner Howard Libit praised the Sun's coverage for doing "an excellent job of capturing the last day of the session -- both the craziness, and the highlights of the major issues."


Featured topic

One hotly debated bill before the General Assembly this year was a provision to allow illegal immigrants to pay in-state rates for college tuition. A Baltimore Sun story on the bill's passage evoked a strong response from Towson University student Devin Hamburger, who wrote: "I read this article in print and then raced back to my laptop to review it. This story was interesting to me because the topic of illegal immigration and education is very controversial." She added that "the writer does a great job of staying unbiased while giving all the sides of the argument."

The enmeshed economics and politics of downtown Baltimore real estate is a recurring theme in the news. Last week, Baltimore Brew took a close look at "Downtown Baltimore: land of the lost tenant." The story sparked some interesting discussion from NewsTrust Baltimore community members, some of whom were left feeling there was more to the story. Kate N. Bernard pointed out in her review: "There are a lot of buildings mentioned in this article that have office space available. The problems that cause this are pointed out and there are some suggestions of what can be done to fix this... It seems there are a lot of topics that are mentioned but not explained."

Towson University student Francesca Sophia Massa wrote: "The story is informative, however it does not really go into much detail and leaves the reader hanging. It also leaves the reader unsure of many issues that they began to cover."

A Baltimore Brew opinion piece on development in downtown Baltimore's West Side also provoked discussion. Reviewer and Investigative Voice staffer A.F. James MacArthur made these observations: "The author raises valid issues. The problem is clearly identified, then a series of solutions are provided. While the readability of the piece could be improved, the points made are solid. Of particular concern to me is the fact of a very expensive State Center facility construction planned for the area, yet there are currently no plans for the soon to be vacant Social Security building."

With the first candidates making their candidacies official, we have created a mayoral election topic page. Please take a look and help us add and review stories. In the months ahead, you can also use that page to keep track of the best journalism on an important election.

Over the city line, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has been wrestling with his first budget season. As discussed in stories from the Baltimore Business Journal and Towson Patch, Kamenetz seems to have threaded a needle by producing a budget without layoffs or tax increases.


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.

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

Thank you again, and see you on the site!


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!




Widening our view of youth in Baltimore

Last week we conducted a news hunt around the topic of youth as portrayed in Baltimore's media landscape.

Our partner in this search for good journalism about and affecting young people was the nonprofit organization Wide Angle Youth Media. Several staff members, including Stephanie DickardMyra Margolin and Susan Malone, helped identify, post and review news stories.

Dickard and Margolin said, "It was very interesting to do a news hunt with an eye for how youth are portrayed in the media."

In reviewing stories, they noted that "depictions of youth in the media usually fall into one of two extremes: exceptional or eccentric stories of youth or depictions of violence perpetrated by or on youth."

They believe that stories on crime (like this one) usually provide "very little context" and leave an "impression of very violent youth with little understanding of who the youth are or the contexts in which youth crime occurs."

Take a look at the stories on youth collected in this news hunt and tell us what you think.

This news hunt ran from Monday, April 4, through Sunday, April 10. During the week, the NewsTrust Baltimore community reviewed 35 stories in the youth category. Of these, six received a NewsTrust rating, and six were considered above average.

Recommended stories


* Classmates remember slain student (reviews) - The Baltimore Sun

* Walbrook Film Project Teaches Students About More Than Holding a Camera (reviews) - Unsung Baltimore

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

* McDonogh hosts Japanese exchange students amid catastrophe (reviews) - The Baltimore Sun

* NASA influences teen's future (reviews) - Salisbury Daily Times

* For Stoneleigh youngsters, interest in steel drum band is elementary (reviews) - Towson Times

* Tuition for illegal immigrant students gets preliminary House approval (reviews) - Maryland Reporter

* Woodlawn High Team Headed to National Robotics Competition (reviews) - Pikesville Patch

* Legislators Urge Rawlings-Blake to Get the Lead Out (reviews) - City Paper

* Teen uses mural to deter graffiti in Columbia tunnel (reviews) - The Baltimore Sun

* UNDER FIRE — Arrest of high level DPW official prompts councilman to question city's employment practices (reviews) - Investigative Voice

* 9-Year-Old Food Critic Takes To The Blogosphere (reviews) - WBAL-TV


* Housing Authority Refuses to Pay Lead Paint Judgements (reviews) - Baltimore Slumlord Watch

* Kids These Days (reviews) - Urbanite

* Truancy (reviews) - The Baltimore Times

* No cheating allowed (reviews) - The Baltimore Sun

Featured topic

This news hunt surfaced several examples of fine journalism on youth, including coverage and commentary on the lingering effects of lead poisoning and inspiring examples of young Baltimoreans' technological and musical achievements.

Our survey of news certainly captured the dark side of young people's lives in the city. A frightening case of a missing teen girl remains unsolved. A 14-year-old boy was charged as an adult for beating his grandmother with a hammer. A city employee with a history of accusations of abuse of minors was arrested.

At the same time, other news stories reflected a different side of youth experiences. In Annapolis, young activists pressed their case for undocumented immigrants' access to higher education. On the blog Unsung Baltimore, Kevin Griffin Moreno (who happens to be a very active News Trust Baltimore member) covered an inspiring youth film project in Walbrook. At the McDonogh School in Owings Mills, students opened their school, homes and hearts to Japanese exchange students.

It was definitely a week of striking contrasts.

During our news hunt on youth, reviewers also brought renewed attention to several important stories from the past few months.

"Kids These Days," an editor's note by Urbanite magazine's Greg Hanscom, explored the generational impact of revolutions in technology. His discussion of "digital natives" prompted some excellent discussion from reviewers.

In response to the essay, Malone, executive director of Wide Angle, asked, "Who is not just addressing the digital divide in our city classrooms but seeking solutions for it?"

Ashley Ward (a Towson University student and "digital native" herself) said: "This was an interesting story to read. I especially like how the author used his own children as examples. This story had me thinking to myself and even comparing. ... I think it would have been nice to get some opinions from college students on the subject and the comparison to other generations."

Wide Angle intern Morris Johnson took notice of a Bmore Media story about a student who has created a search engine for over-50 web users. Morris praised the story because, he said, it "provides both a personal and professional perspective."

"In addition, it spends some time evaluating the benefits to having a site like Good50 by highlighting some of the unique health issues that Good50's users might face," he wrote. "The story makes this student's particular innovation relevant and interesting to the reader."

Despite positive stories like this, our partners at Wide Angle looked at the balance of news in Baltimore's media and came to the conclusion that much more needs to be done to highlight "well-rounded, diverse and balanced depictions of youth in our city."

Do you agree? Are some stories getting too much, too little, or the wrong kind of attention? We invite you to continue following the stories appearing at our youth topic page. We welcome your thoughts!

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.

In this week's news hunt, we're returning to the topic of politics. As the legislative session has drawn to a close, you can help us find the best journalism on politics by posting and reviewing stories.

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!


Join our hunt for political news!

After last week's news hunt about youth, we're turning our attention to politics this week.

In Annapolis the legislative session is coming to a close and Governor Martin O'Malley faces several tests of his leadership. This week we'll see the results of many months of debate in Annapolis. The consequences will have a major impact on the lives of people in and around Baltimore.

The Baltimore City political scene has been warming up this spring. The legal wrangling over Baltimore City Council redistricting has been prominent in the news. Given the controversy over where exactly some councilmembers live, we're sure to see this subject debated further. The mayoral election is also on the horizon. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake faces a number of challengers. One of them, former city planner Otis Rolley, opened his campaign office in Hampden last week.

In short, this is a very busy time for political news, and we welcome your help in identifying the best journalism on Baltimore and Maryland politics in our news hunt this week.

To learn more about how and why we conduct these weekly journalism surveys, visit our news hunt page, which explains what a news hunt is and details some of our recent Baltimore topics, as well as some news hunts on the NewsTrust national site. 

As part of a news hunt, we ask our member community to do two things: find and post journalism on the topic and review related stories at our website. At the end of the news hunt, we summarize how many stories were reviewed and aim to point to the "most trusted" pieces -- stories that were rated with high marks by our community reviewers. 

The success of NewsTrust Baltimore entirely depends on our readers and members, so we're grateful for your participation. We look forward to sharing and discussing this week's political coverage with you!


Reviewing multimedia journalism

Reviewing stories on NewsTrust Baltimore can be an interesting experience. By slowing down to read or watch a story carefully and answer specific questions about the quality of the journalism, we also teach ourselves how to look more critically at the information we consume.

In some cases, the stories lend themselves perfectly to our review tools. Other times, we may find there are additional questions that could be posed, or some that don't fit exactly right.

Lately, I am seeing a new challenge to reviewing stories -- the multimedia postings of several news outlets. In some cases, a primarily print and online news source, such as The Baltimore Sun, includes documentation video. Other times a television channel, such as WBAL, adds an edited or unedited transcript to its video online. And then there are more experimental sources, like What Weekly online, which uses photo journalism, video and type interchangeably.

An interesting discussion arose from a recent WJZ story, "Baltimore Journalist Missing In Libya," in which many reviewers focused on the text, which was a lightly edited transcript of the included video. It was interesting to see how much harder it was to comprehend the text, whereas watching the video gave inflection, tone, and context that added meaning to the story. 

In the case of the City Paper article "Watching the Watchers," the unedited footage from subject Leonard Kerpelman’s camera gives valuable background information on the court case. 

Here are some tips for reviewing multimedia stories:

  1. Review the story after reading, watching and listening to all media included in the story. This is ideal, as the producers intended all the media to be part of the story, and it will lend itself to the most accurate assessment of the journalism.
  2. Focus your review on the primary media type. Most sources have a primary media type that they use. For example, and audio clip from WYPR will most likely give you the full intended story.
  3. Use the 'Notes' window in the review form to review elements of the story that don't follow the standard review questions. It's easy to review facts and fairness, but what about sound quality, video editing, etc.? Your assessment of the multimedia elements of the story can help other reviewers to look more carefully at video and audio stories, too.

On the site, check out some good reviews by Don Bertschman, Asia S. Hinton and Sam Boyd that take the media types into account. I hope these examples inspire you to review more multimedia stories!


Findings from a weeklong hunt for education news

4122590627_63b6143658_m As we noted last week, news stories about education are never far from the headlines in Baltimore.

The city's schools, statewide policy and higher education are all major recurring themes at NewsTrust Baltimore. In addition, the practice of education has been a crucial part of our mission. From the beginning, NewsTrust Baltimore has been working closely with a number of educational partners. Last week, we got a close look at one of these great schools and experienced a wonderful symposium at the Baltimore Freedom Academy, a remarkable public charter school in Baltimore City.

It should be no surprise that, during our news hunt on the topic of education, NewsTrust Baltimore staff and community members posted and discussed an array of fascinating examples of journalism.

This news hunt ran from Monday, March 28, through Sunday, April 3. During the week, the NewsTrust Baltimore community found and listed 58 stories in the education category. Of these, 22 stories were reviewed, 12 received a NewsTrust rating, and 12 were considered above average. 

Recommended stories



Featured topic

One of the biggest education stories of the week was Nancy Grasmick's announcement that she will retire from her post as state superintendent of schools. Broken by WBFF-TV, the news spread quickly and prompted a lot of discussion. The Baltimore Sun's laudatory editorial about Grasmick seemed to set the tone of much of the coverage. In the following weeks, as her legacy is debated and the search for a successor begins, it will interesting to see if more critical voices come forth.

Public school funding is a major chunk of both the state and city budgets. In coverage of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's budget, the Baltimore Brew highlighted her support for schools (perhaps at the expense of some other important programs). Maryland's General Assembly also seems to be keeping education foremost in its budget negotiations, according to the The Baltimore Sun. As the legislative session winds down, readers and reviewers may find particularly timely news at Maryland Reporter, the Baltimore Sun's Maryland Politics blog, and other sources highlighted in our politics section.

In coverage of the Baltimore County Public Schools, Towson Patch has kept close tabs on controversies over transparency and salaries in a series of stories.

At a time when arts and music in our schools seem endangered, a charming Towson Times story on a steel drum band at Stoneleigh Elementary School, prompted Susan MaloneWide Angle Youth Media's executive director, to note on NewsTrust: "It is wonderful to see positive youth stories about schools providing young people with musical or artistic opportunities."

"It would have been nice to see a comparison of steel drum programs in the city verses the county, and to learn more about the outcomes for youth in the county programs," she wrote.

Baltimore's colleges and universities are a major part of the city's economy, culture and news scene. In addition to some sharp journalism students who contribute to the News Trust Baltimore community, these schools are also producing some provocative news in their student-run newspapers.

For instance, Towson University's Towerlight published an interesting profile of two students who spent their winter break helping victims of flooding in Honduras. The Towerlight published another interesting story about the sometimes-poignant reasons why people tattoo themselves.

At the University of Maryland, The Diamondback has been in the midst of reporting on some very contentious campus labor disputes.

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 youth in Baltimore by posting and reviewing stories in the youth topic. Stephanie Dickard from partner organization Wide Angle Youth Media is helping us gather and review articles.

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!


Photo credit: Dr John2005 on Flickr


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.


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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