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May 2011

News on the radio

This month, we’ve been exploring Baltimore’s most important issues as covered by four major types of media. In the first week, we focused on newspapers, magazines, and wire services. During the second week of May, we turned our attention to television news. Last week, we collected and reviewed journalism contributed by Baltimore’s radio outlets.

BillMillTowersPhoto For entertainment and information, radio is an important broadcast medium and one of the most accessible, playing often in cars, homes and offices. And via podcasts and streaming audio, what Orson Welles called “theatre on the air” is now also a digital medium, delivered online. The text of reports is also often posted on stations' websites, to accompany embedded audio.

Baltimore’s radio choices include lively news and talk stations such as WBAL and WOLB, university-based outlets like WEAA, and well-established public radio at WYPR. The city's programming is a compelling blend of opinion, discussion, audience call-in shows and traditional news reporting. 


Not just a horse race

Baltimore’s news media devoted a lot of time last week to the Preakness, the city’s annual moment in the horseracing spotlight. As a sports and entertainment spectacle, the Preakness is an important story, but it also has huge economic, political and social implications. From talk radio to the local National Public Radio affiliate, the Preakness was an occasion to explore the issues attached to the event.  

WYPR produced “Down the Stretch,” a series of reports on horseracing in Maryland. Headlines from the series give a hint of the importance of this event in the city and the state: State’s Ailing Horseracing Industry In Sharp Relief With Preakness … Preakness Masks An Ailing State Racehorsing Industry … Dwindling Pool Of Bettors May Hold Fate Of State's Racing Industry … Thousands Of Workers Depend On State's Horse Racing Industry. It is a revealing series augmented by field reporting, video and online supplements.

On the sports talk station 105.7 The Fan, hosts Ed Norris and Steve Davis spoke with Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank about the horse racing industry in Maryland. They discussed Plank’s own investment in a local horse breeding institution and the statewide relevance of the sport.


Is Baltimore an "open city"?

A roundtable on The Marc Steiner Show discussed a thought-provoking exhibition organized by students at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Including contributions from Urbanite magazine and other local institutions, the Baltimore Open City exhibition  has explored the tangled issues of race, history, urban life, economics, art, community and culture. An exchange facilitated by guest host Anthony McCarthy delved deeply into these issues by asking, “What does it mean to have an inclusive and open city?” Listen to this discussion at The Marc Steiner Show website.


Other radio stories of interest

* Gazette columnist Blair Lee on the Ron Smith Show - WBAL Radio

* Midday News Review - May 20, 2011 - WYPR: Midday with Dan Rodricks

* Light for All for 174 Years - WYPR

* Youth Advocates Press City To Expand Summer Jobs Program - WYPR

* Education cuts, Baltimore politics, and more - WEAA: The Marc Steiner Show

* Conversation with Meshelle about her book "101 Things Every Girl / Young Woman of Color Should Know" - WEAA: The Marc Steiner Show


Join us as we continue our hunt for good journalism

These stories are just a few of the stories and themes covered on Baltimore radio last week. We hope you'll listen in on a few of these stories and help us identify other examples of outstanding local journalism.

This week we're examining online source: blogs, online sites, podcasts and other internet-based news and opinion in Baltimore. How do these sites discuss the city’s most pressing issues? What are we missing as we collect and review stories? We welcome your insights -- join us in reviewing and posting stories on NewsTrust Baltimore!


Photo Credit: Bill Mill


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


Baltimore news on television

This month we’ve been taking a close look at how different media outlets are covering Baltimore’s biggest issues. In our first week, we focused on newspapers, wire services and magazines, then shared some of our findings about this local landscape of print media. Last week, we turned our attention to stories produced by Baltimore’s television news outlets

To allow our community to view and comment on stories, NewsTrust Baltimore focuses on material that’s been made available on the web, but not every outlet places every story online. As a result, our snapshot of television news last week did not capture content from some interesting sources that also contribute to Baltimore’s news ecosystem. We didn’t find video from last week’s programming on Channel 75, Baltimore’s public access television station, but it is certainly part of the city’s information landscape. We noted one report on self-defense classes by a student journalist at Towson University’s WMJF, but it appears there are more stories that aren't online.

For the most part, however, Baltimore’s television news outlets now share video segments and publish story summaries online. Others have taken bigger steps into new media. WBAL, for instance, uploads content to its own YouTube channel. On some stories, online versions include additional background materials, invitations for viewers to share their views, and active discussions on social media platforms. 

The news on television is usually constrained to one- or two-minute segments, but even sound bites and quick cuts can convey a lot. The nonverbal information contained in well-edited video and audio can pack an emotional and informational punch. A good television report can show what's at stake in a story. TV excels at conveying individual's voices, the textures of a neighborhood and strong emotions.

Last week, all the local boradcast TV stations covered a memorial service for homicide victim Phylicia Barnes. WBFF's Janice Park interviewed the victim's brother. Weijia Jiang of WJZ shared comments from police officials who have been immersed in the unsolved case. WBAL and WMAR caught other moments and words at the memorial service. Each outlet caught unique details of the event, but all conveyed something of the raw emotion of a major case in Baltimore.



Recurring themes in Baltimore's television news

There’s a well-worn stereotype that TV news is dominated by the motto “if it bleeds, it leads.” No doubt local news in Baltimore can sometimes seem like a steady drumbeat of crime and violence: “Hit-And-Run Leaves 2 Hopkins Students Hospitalized”… “2 CCBC Students Face Gun Possession Charges” … "Man Shot, Killed Outside of Pikesville Hotel" ... and so on. But even these segments give voices and faces to people who too often fade into the background in news stories. Television can grant more humanity to someone who might be described only as “a witness” or “a local resident” in a print story.

As part of a series of investigations of Maryland’s “cold cases,” WMAR presented a story on the forensic science used to crack some of these long-unsolved homicides. The report addresses a knowledge deficit about DNA testing in a straightforward and informative way:

Despite the inflammatory headline used on their website (“Cop Killer Rally”), this WBFF story provided an outline of the still-controversial case of Marshall “Eddie” Conway, a Black Panther Party member convicted of murdering a police officer in 1970. The evening news may be ill-suited as a forum for exploring such a complicated, historically freighted subject.

Race and racism were not explicitly highlighted in most of the stories we viewed last week, but it is a powerful current in television news. Unlike print journalism, which can appear "color-blind" unless a writer chooses to mention race, television inevitably displays the race and ethnicity. It's an interesting difference between the two media and a good subject for further discussion.

Local news stations have a long tradition of investigative journalism and consumer advocacy, and we saw some good examples last week. WBAL’s Barry Simms explored problems with Baltimore’s Housing Authority. WBFF pushed Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on outstanding arrest warrants for city workers and reported on a probe of the city's parks and recreation budget.

WBAL took advantage of social media to include viewer’s opinions in a report on proposals for new Inner Harbor attractions. In the broadcast, on Facebook, and on station's website, WBAL's Jayne Miller sought and shared comments from the public.

Cable television has a reputation for unbridled opinionating, but there seem to be few Baltimore-focused public affairs discussion programs. Maryland Public Television produces several interview shows, all hosted by Jeff Salkin. In one week he adroitly moved between such topics as the continuing woes of Maryland’s real estate market on Direct Connection, new training programs for small businesses on Your Money and Business, and the latest in Maryland politics on State Circle. The lengthier format of these programs provides guests with an ample opportunity to share their expertise and opinions and for Salkin to present polite but probing questions.


Join us in the hunt for good journalism

These are just a few of the stories and deeper themes that we found in the second week of our monthlong news hunt. We hope that you'll take a closer look at these stories and help us identify other examples of outstanding local journalism.

This week we're examining radio news sources in Baltimore. How do local stations and programs handle the city’s most pressing issues? What are we missing as we collect and review stories? We welcome your insights -- please join us in reviewing and posting stories on NewsTrust Baltimore.


Print outlets' coverage of the big issues of Baltimore

CityPaper Instead of a traditional weekly news hunt, we are spending May immersed in a broad range of issues facing Baltimore. Each week, we are studying local news coverage through the lenses of different types of media. Last week, we focused on newspapers, wire services and magazines

Even in a time of transition in the media landscape, newspapers remain a cornerstone of Baltimore's journalism ecosystem. From The Baltimore Sun to community weeklies, these publications often set the local news agenda.

Wire services like the Associated Press are the original instant news outlets. Their stories are published in print newspapers and offered to online and broadcast media outlets. Students at the University of Maryland's Merrill College of Journalism operate the Capital News Service and provide some excellent coverage of Maryland topics, such as illegal oyster harvesting.

Magazines offer an opportunity to step back from the daily stream of news and to take in a bigger picture. Monthly publications like Urbanite magazine often pair insightful writing with striking visuals. Baltimore magazine's story about the Enoch Pratt Free Library is one example of this powerful combination.


Themes in print coverage

Over the course of last week, as we reviewed stories published in these outlets, we saw some recurring themes. 

One crucial function of a widely read mainstream newspaper is to provide a forum for civil debate. In addition to regular columnists and op-ed pieces, The Baltimore Sun often publishes opposing arguments on vital topics. Some of Baltimore's greatest challenges stem from the illegal drug trade, widespread addiction, drug-related crime and large-scale incarceration. Last week, the Sun published opposing views on one approach to tackling those problems: "Drug courts work — I've seen it" and "Drug courts are not the answer."

In addition to the Sun, Baltimoreans have a wide choice of newspapers. There are spirited independent publications and tightly focused professional papers. Some cover specific beats, like The Daily Record on business and law. Others serve particular neighborhoods, community interests or political points of view. Last week, the progressive Indypendent Reader publicized a report by labor activists about the conditions of workers at Inner Harbor businesses

Crime and justice issues are always in the background (and often front and center) in Baltimore's news landscape. From a surge in crime in northeast Baltimore to a terrible case of animal cruelty, the city's newspapers are often the source of record. City Paper's weekly "Murder Ink" column is just one example of this important role.

Even as ambitious development projects and are under way (and under debate), people in Baltimore are worried and skeptical about the long-term impact of efforts like the Red Line transportation project. As covered in the City Paper, long-time tenants are being forced out to make way for another major development project. At the same time, educational and recreational programs for underserved youth are diminished by scarce resources and bureaucratic errors

In many of these cases, race and legacies of racism play a major role. In "The Power of Pictures" Urbanite magazine explored a fascinating artistic effort to confront and surpass stereotypes of black men and boys. 

At the same time, as covered by The Baltimore Sun and the Baltimore OUTloud newspaper, a violent attack on a transgendered woman in a Baltimore County McDonald's has sparked a new urgency in civil rights advocacy.



Join us in the hunt for good journalism

These are just a few of the fascinating stories and deeper themes that have emerged in the first week of our monthlong news hunt. We hope that you'll take a closer look at some of these stories and help us identify other examples of outstanding local journalism.

This week we're examining television news sources in Baltimore. How do they handle these important issues? What are we missing as we collect and review stories? Add your voice to the conversation!


Photo credit: Flickr photo from Damon Green


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. 


Looking at how different media cover the news

We can get our news in so many ways: by scanning our web browsers, reading newsprint or glossy magazine pages, hearing voices on the car radio, or watching the evening news on local TV stations. We have more choices than ever of how to consume information, but each of these forms of media have their own limits and advantages. 

For the month of May, we'd like to try something new at NewsTrust Baltimore. We want to take a closer look at various kinds of news sources. We'll explore the different styles of journalism found in print, on television, over the radio and online. We will also dive deeper into some of the biggest issues that affect Baltimore. And we're asking you to help us track how different media treat these major concerns.  


To that end, each week in May, we'll examine different sources, grouped loosely by medium. This week, we'll focus on newspapers, magazines and wire services, which we can loosely classify as "print." Next week, beginning Monday, we'll look at television. During the week of May 16, we'll examine radio content. And on the week of May 23, we'll look at blogs and purely online sources

After each full week of posting and reviewing content, we'll write a brief blog post summarizing some of the highlights we discovered together as a community. We'll also examine some of the strengths and weaknesses of different platforms. Check back to this blog to stay updated on this ambitious news hunt.

This experiment doesn't mean, however, that we'll sacrifice other news stories and media during any given week. We'll keep up a regular posting and reviewing pace, and we hope you'll help. 

A note about how content is classified: On our sources page, where you can now rate your sources (check out this blog post for more details on that new feature), you'll find that we categorize each source as one primary medium, even though many sources produce journalism across a variety of platforms. For example, The Baltimore Sun (where I used to work) has its roots as a newspaper but produces much web content, including blogs, video and audio; on NewsTrust, we categorize it as a newspaper. Any individual story can be tagged as a different type of content when it's posted, but anything produced by Baltimore Sun staff will be examined during the week that we look at newspapers.

That said, we want this to be a longer-term news hunt, and at the end of the month, we'll look back at all four weeks and discuss our findings and point you to recommended stories and sources. This will allow us to look at a full month's worth of content across media, while considering each week a shorter, deeper dive. 

This week, several monthly Baltimore magazines have posted stories from their May issues, which means this is a great week to look at magazine stories, and we're also including newspapers and wire services in the week of looking at what is historically a "print" medium. May is also sweeps month for our local TV stations, so we're sure to see some interesting stories and projects in the next few weeks.


We hope that we'll see some journalism this month that explains "the big picture" of Baltimore. We'll be looking specifically for stories that add context and get at the deeper issues that affect this city. We don't know yet what those stories will focus on, so we're also open to highlighting stories that follow what happens in the news this month.

We also encourage you to let us know what issues are important to you -- you can leave a comment here, send us a Tweet, or post on our Facebook wall. And the more you review and leave thoughtful comments on NewsTrust Baltimore, the more we learn what matters to you.

Join us! 

Each week, we'll point to the focus on the "from the editors" box on the homepage and link you to relevant pages to get started reviewing. We need your help to rate and review specific stories each week, and we also encourage you to post stories from your favorite sources to increase the diversity of the journalism on NewsTrust Baltimore. 

Thanks for participating in this experiment!


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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