News Hunt

Baltimore, as seen through the prism of different media

Since the launch of the NewsTrust Baltimore project, we have conducted several news hunts that focus our community's attention on one major theme for a week. Early in May, NewsTrust Baltimore editor Mary Hartney wrote about our plan for a monthlong News Hunt experiment:

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.


In that spirit, we spent one week focused on each of the main news media in Baltimore: print (newspapers, magazines, and wire services), television (commercial and public TV), radio (both news and talk), and online (blogs, web magazines, etc.). We blogged at the conclusion of each week and highlighted themes in coverage and pointed to recommended stories -- check out the linked blog posts for those summaries and more specific notes.

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 give us a sample of the city’s preoccupations and a good sense of how different media cover Baltimore’s most pressing issues.

During the month, the community together reviewed 115 newspaper stories, six from magazines, and four from wire services. We also reviewed 24 television reports, 18 radio segments, eight blog posts, and 63 online pieces.

As a comparison point, since the launch of NewsTrust Baltimore on Jan. 31, we reviewed 702 newspaper stories, 49 from magazines, 26 from wire services, 70 from TV, 74 from radio, 64 blog posts and 351 online stories -- 1,351 total stories. (15 stories are categorized as "other."


Themes in coverage

Throughout May, as we examined the local news scene through different media lenses, we found several recurring themes.

News about crime and violence is a matter of routine in Baltimore. Despite the numbing regularity of such news and the temptations to sensationalize, we have seen consistent efforts to humanize and contextualize crime reporting. Of course, there are straightforward crime-blotter reports, but we also saw many examples of compelling interviews, thorough reporting and judicious commentary.

Racial issues are often just below the surface in Baltimore news stories. However, with some prominent exceptions, these concerns are not usually confronted head-on. Is Baltimore’s racial polarization is so ingrained it is no longer considered newsworthy?

Additionally, we certainly saw plenty of coverage of drug-related violence and crime, but we did not review very much journalism about addiction, treatment or the root causes of urban violence.

Various news media outlets have taken a special interest in youth and in area schools. From independent bloggers to The Baltimore Sun, we saw many stories exploring education policy and leadership. In addition to some very prominent tragedies, we also saw significant stories about young people who were not perpetrators or victims of crime.

There was a lot of coverage of economic development in the course of the month, but these stories focused mostly on large public-private projects. We did not see an abundance of journalism about poverty or the day-to-day existences of people outside the economic mainstream.

Keep in mind that the four weeks of this news hunt are a sample of coverage, and these topics may be addressed at other times. 


Different media, different senses

In our weekly posts during this news hunt, we’ve noted how television’s images and immediacy can inform and stir strong emotion. We’ve reflected on the enduring quality of print media, the ubiquity of radio, and the explosion of local news and commentary online.

Contrary to some conventional thought, we found many television stories that eschewed sensationalism in favor of investigative work and reporting on wider contexts. We also found online news sources pursuing and publishing “old-fashioned” original reporting.

In an increasingly digital media environment, some of these barriers between media categories have blurred, and we have noted innovative use of new media from the city’s oldest news organizations. For example, WBAL Radio has been broadcasting since 1925, but it has enhanced its on-air news reporting with online video, additional audio clips and text-based reports. Additionally,The Baltimore Sun has been publishing more and more news in various online media and social networking platforms.

Though online sources are the most diverse by many measures (e.g., writing style and political ideology), they do not seem to reflect the city’s racial and ethnic diversity. It's hard to say if that is a result of a digital divide in internet access or a failure on our part to find and post stories from more diverse sources.


Media and the NewsTrust platform

Because NewsTrust Baltimore is an online forum for finding and reviewing news stories, we are limited to material that appears on the web. If, for instance, a television station does not produce online clips or transcripts, we cannot post and review its stories. The absence of an RSS feed also diminishes our ability to post and review an organization's stories. These are necessary limitations of our project, but they also points to a missed opportunity for these news outlets and their audiences, as well as for the NewsTrust Baltimore community.

Another factor to keep in mind is our propensity toward text-based news stories. We make a concerted effort to include and feature audio and video sources and stories, but the NewsTrust filter and the questions we ask in our review forms are most effective for evaluating longer-form text.

As some experts have pointed out, a lot of news these days is being produced outside the traditional “article.” At present, we don’t have an easy way to capture and review something like Baltimore Sun crime reporter Justin Fenton’s informative Twitter feed.


What are we missing?

We’ve tried to be diligent in tracking down and collecting active news sources in Baltimore, but every week we discover new ones in a constantly changing landscape. No doubt we have missed some neighborhood newsletters, personal blogs that venture into commentary, niche media outlets, or brand-new publications. If you know of news sources that we have overlooked, please leave a comment or send us an email at baltimore at newstrust dot net.

One of the primary purposes of NewsTrust Baltimore is to surface and highlight quality journalism -- and we also want to have a conversation about what's not being covered. There are issues, communities and events that simply don’t get the attention they deserve. We welcome your views on what subjects and stories are absent from the Baltimore news ecosystem, and we'll have a focused conversation on current gaps and possible solutions in July. 


Your insights are welcome

What are your thoughts? What are the strengths and weakness of Baltimore’s news outlets in various media? Do you have a preferred way of getting your local news? Please share your experiences in the comments section below and rate and review sources on NewsTrust Baltimore. Thanks for your participation!


Photo montage by Fabrice Florin


Baltimore blogs and online sources

This month we have been exploring Baltimore’s most important issues as covered by four major types of news media. We've reviewed coverage by newspapers, magazines and wire services. We've watched the television news. And we've tuned in to Baltimore’s radio outlets.

During the final week of this monthlong news hunt, we focused on the newest forms of news media: online sources, such as blogs, web magazines, podcasts, and other forms of internet expression.

Baltimore's blogosphere includes a wide range of views and voices. Dozens of bloggers weigh in on local issues, and some cover single topics with admirable focus and consistency, such as Baltimore Crime and Baltimore Slumlord Watch.  

There are also websites that have matured into important news-gathering operations. Amibitious sites like Baltimore Brew and Investigative Voice are focusing on traditional news reporting in a new medium. What Weekly and Bmore Media are using blends of text, audio, photography and video to capture Baltimore's innovation.


Big plans for the Inner Harbor

In addition to the end of Oprah's television show and some moving Memorial Day remembrances, a few stories dominated the news in Baltimore last week.

Much of the news and opinion writing last week revolved around a development project announced by the Greater Baltimore Committee. The plan, which includes major private-sector commitments, has provoked quite a few follow-up stories and some sharp debate.

Here are some examples of online coverage and opinion-writing on downtown development:



City, state and local politics receive a lot of passionate attention from Baltimore's bloggers and online sources. There are many politically focused blogs and even a political podcast (Red Maryland Radio), but debate is a recurring feature of just about every online media outlet in Baltimore. Here are some interesting contributions from last week:



Baltimore's schools have been a constant source of news and comment during our news hunt this month. Online sources bring to the fore unfiltered expert perspectives (like this post from the Open Society Institute's blog) and the views of parents. The Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance blog gives parents a chance to talk about their kids' schools. A parent deeply involved in the city's public charter school movement shares her knowledge at her blog. At a new online publication called Baltimore Fishbowl, another parent reflects on the demands of the college admissions circus.


Other online stories of interest

As you can see from the sources above, there is no shortage of online news and opinion in Baltimore. There is also a lot of diversity in this online ecosystem: a state whose politics are dominated by Democrats has a strong undercurrent of conservative opinion; urban neighborhoods and small suburban communities have their own town criers; and, even as impassioned amateurs make important contributions, there are now full-time professionals delivering news and opinion online.

Later this week, look for our blog post summing up the lessons and insights we've collected throughout this monthlong hunt for news about Baltimore's most important issues. In the meantime, please feel free to share your thoughts on this city's very interesting media landscape. You can also rate and review sources on NewsTrust Baltimore.


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


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


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!


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!


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!


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.


This week's topic: education

Happy Monday! After last week's experiment in pointing to stories you might have missed, we're back to a regular news hunt today. This week, we'll focus on education, and there have been a number of interesting stories over the past few months about schools in Baltimore City and County, as well as in the state. 

For some background, here's 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 -- which are typically a week on the Baltimore site, though there have been some that are longer -- we summarize how many stories were reviewed and aim to point to the "most trusted" pieces, which links to one of our goals as an organization. 

The success of NewsTrust Baltimore depends on our members -- thank you for your participation, and we look forward to a good conversation this week about education!


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


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


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!


On community

For the past 10 days, NewsTrust Baltimore has been focusing on stories around the theme of community.

We've found, as we expected, that the word "community" means different things to different people. Are our communities defined by neighborhoods? Values? Race or ethnicity? Profession or socioeconomic status? Some people think of Baltimore is a big city composed of many small towns and communities. We're also seeing that Baltimore's news ecosystem reflects that variety and intimacy.

Last week Fern Shen, editor and publisher of The Baltimore Brew, was our guest host. She helped us search out, post, and review stories that captured the many sides of community in Baltimore.  

This week and through the weekend, we'll continue looking at stories about different communities and encourage you to help us find, post, and review articles on the community page.

Sometimes, very local neighborhood worries can reflect much broader, city-wide problems. To get a sense of how independent news sources are bringing light to these "small" community concerns, see this opinion piece from The Baltimore Guide, "When a 311 call becomes a 911 call." Franklin Square resident Scott Kashnow described an all too common problem, illegal dumping and slow City cleanup. In this case, a pile of discarded mattresses turned from an eyesore into a potentially serious fire, despite repeated calls to the City's 311 line.

History helps define communities, and Baltimore's African-American heritage has been in the news. WYPR's Maryland Morning created a multimedia report on Pennsylvania Avenue, a place that is central to Baltimore black history. Once the commercial and recreational heart of segregated black Baltimore, the avenue is now a focus of remembrance (and possible future development). In addition to a broadcast segment, Maryland Morning collected some online resources: striking photographs, helpful links, and some fascinating interview material that didn't make it on air. The NewsTrust Baltimore community responded with a very interesting series of comments. It's a must-read conversation among NewsTrust reviewers

The fate of Baltimore's communities is connected to regional and global economic forces.  As wheelers and dealers far from the city announced (yet another) sale of the Sparrows Point steel mill, Baltimore Brew captured the voices of local steelworkers in a collection of frank comments.

Who leads Baltimore's communities leaders? In January, Baltimore magazine featured its list of the people wielding power in the local scene. In "Power: Who has it. Who's lost it. And how to get it" the magazine presented a compelling portrait of outstanding people in a wide range of fields. The Baltimore Business Journal published their "Power 20: The Next Generation" list in February.

Last week, Urbanite magazine offered another read on Baltimore's powerful. In a collection of stories entitled "Keys to the City" Urbanite profiled six leaders who have "unlocked secrets for making change from the bottom up." Does this list seem more surprising and interesting than Baltimore magazine's? Who's really driving change in Baltimore's communities? How well are our local media covering these individuals and networks of influence? Are the concerns of your community being aired?

As we wind up this week's focus on community, we hope you'll share your thoughts on these questions and more.  

Among the stories we're discussing this week:

The NewsTrust community

We like to think of the people who visit NewsTrust Baltimore as an important community of our own. We're grateful for the attention, reviews, and ideas contributed to our project by a diverse range of people. From media partners who have shared their work to young students and ordinary citizens who have brought their perceptive eyes and insights, the NewsTrust Baltimore community is coming together. 

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


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


Hunting for science and technology news

In week three of the NewsTrust Baltimore pilot, we focused on coverage of science and technology topics. This news hunt ran from Monday, Feb. 14, through Sunday, Feb. 20.

NewsTrust members and staff highlighted a number of interesting stories during the week: a proposed $100 million fund for technology start-ups in Maryland, a group of computer hackers devoting time to help the citizens of Baltimore, and a presidential visit putting a spotlight on science education.

During the week, 36 stories related to science and technology were reviewed by the NewsTrust Baltimore community. Of those, 10 received a NewsTrust rating, and nine were considered above average. 

Recommended stories



Featured topic
Baltimore is a global center for medical research and has a growing tech startup scene, so it is not surprising we saw a steady stream of science and technology stories in the past week. The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland are major centers for scientific research, and state funds have helped make them leaders in stem cell research. Now, as explained in this Baltimore Sun story, there is intense competition for state grants that can make or break high-stakes, high-cost research projects.

Seeking another tech-powered engine for the Maryland economy, Governor Martin O'Malley has proposed a $100 million fund to support bioscience and technology startup businesses. At the Center Maryland blog, Donald Fry has a thoughtful analysis of this proposal.

Also during the week, President Obama visited Parkville Middle School in Baltimore County to discuss his education budget plan and make a pitch for improved science education.

Led by the Baltimore Brew, several news outlets covered the city's first Civic Hack Day, an attempt to put techno-wizardry to work for Baltimore. North Baltimore Patch interviewed Mike Brenner, the organizer of the event.

Technology and online networks have helped topple dictators in Arab countries in recent weeks. Entrepreneur Dave Troy asked on his blog last week if similar forces could revolutionize Baltimore's political status quo. Be sure to check out the discussion on NewsTrust Baltimore around this provocative argument. 

Mobile electronic devices are everywhere these days, and Maryland legislators have been struggling to find ways to discourage drivers from enjoying too much of this technology while in traffic. Community member and Baltimore Freedom Academy teacher Andrew Pham wrote that a Baltimore Sun story on driving-and-texting laws offered a "great explanation of the issues, from multiple perspectives. I appreciated that there was a comparison to the use of cell phones and their penalties. I would have liked a better explanation of the procedures pertaining to passing the change to the law."

Another good review comes from Towson University student Melanie Losover, who commented on a story about green building practices: "While the article was definitely informative and got right down to the facts, I would have liked to see a little more detail behind each of the projects and how they will benefit each community. It was good that the author was able to get a quote from Governor O'Malley and another expert, but I would have liked to hear from someone living in one of the communities that is to benefit from this program."

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, we're seeking good journalism in the culture and living categories. These sorts of stories are very important in a city that has more cultural riches than any one person has time to explore. What are some news sources that help you find what's most interesting? Let us know in the comments.

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!


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. 


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!


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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