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Final stats of the NewsTrust Baltimore pilot

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

Be sure to check our other reports on our Baltimore pilot, which include personal observations from our staff, an analysis of the Baltimore news ecosystem, our editorial report, educational and community report and survey results.

For more information about the wrap-up of this project and about NewsTrust's new directions, check out this blog post.

Here are the final statistics from our six-month NewsTrust Baltimore pilot, from Jan. 31 to July 31, 2011 (see also our early findings from our first three months). These results suggest that our local news experiment was well-received, with encouraging levels of participation from the Baltimore community. Here are some of the highlights.


Web traffic: How many people checked out the site?

A total of 21,048 people visited NewsTrust Baltimore during our six-month pilot, from Jan. 31 to July 31, 2011, according to Google Analytics. This exceeded our goal of 20,000 unique visitors for that period. Over the six months, we averaged 3,913 monthly unique visitors to our site, which is more than 10 percent of a typical month's traffic on our national site.


This timeline from Google Analytics shows daily visitors to the NewsTrust Baltimore site during the project. Overall, visits to our site were steady, typically higher at the start of the week and lower on the weekends. We observed high traffic peaks after launch (4,415 unique visitors in February), as well as during our educational programs (4,218 visitors in April), and traffic trailed off in our last month, when we cut back on community engagement activities (3,382 visitors in July). This level of traffic seems to be on par with other independent nonprofit news sites in Baltimore.

These traffic statistics for our local website do not include the additional traffic from our widgets, which reached about 115,000 monthly unique visitors during the period, on average. This additional traffic was largely generated by widgets on The Baltimore Sun's local news pages, as well as on independent sites like the Baltimore Brew. Because these widgets were typically placed toward the bottom of the pages on our partner sites and not promoted editorially, they did not generate much click-through, though we believe they increased awareness of our project.

Throughout the six-month pilot, people viewed 140,146 pages on our site, or an average of 3.58 pages per visit, for an average of 4 minutes and 18 seconds. We view these numbers as a positive indicator of participation, suggesting that visitors were taking the time to read and engage with the stories we listed on our site.

Here are the main sources of traffic to NewsTrust Baltimore, according to Google Analytics:



Member stats: Who used NewsTrust?

Of the 21,408 people who came to NewsTrust Baltimore during the pilot, 535 signed up and became NewsTrust members.

These members can be broken down into these groups:

Here are the stated demographics of NewsTrust Baltimore members who filled in their profiles (about 15% of all members):

Female                   51%
Male                       49%

Age Groups:
Adults 18-34           64%
Adults 35-49           21%
Adults 50+              16%
High school only    39%
College graduate    26%
Post-graduate        35%  

Left                          56%
Center                     36%
Right                          8%
No experience        25%
1-4 years                40%
5 or more years      35%


Note that these demographics are not necessarily representative of our entire membership or visitors to our site but present a reasonable estimate of the most active participants. The high ratio of members between 18 and 34 is largely due to our partnerships with universities like Towson University, and many journalism students indicated that they had 1-4 years experience.

Of the people who signed up, 62 percent reviewed a story on NewsTrust, while 38 percent did not, based on information from our internal SQL database.

The breakdown of reviewers and non-reviewers by membership group was interesting: Most college students (89 percent) reviewed at least one story, comprising more than half of all reviews on the site. But only 40 percent of non-affiliated members, including the general public, reviewed stories. Among members of our partner organizations who signed up for NewsTrust, 74 percent of educational partners reviewed stories, while 50 percent of media partners reviewed. These statistics suggest that our service was more appealing in educational settings than it was for consumers or media partners.

An interesting way to visualize who did and did not review is to break down reviewers and non-reviewers separately. The colorful chart on the left is the breakdown, by group, of the 65 percent of members who reviewed stories. The gray chart on the right breaks down by group the 36 percent who did not review:



Content stats: What kinds of stories did we find and review?

Over the six months, members read (or at least clicked on) 7,550 news and opinion stories. That includes stories that came from our RSS feeds, as well as the 5,382 stories that were manually posted by members. Of these 5,382 stories, 88 percent were posted by NewsTrust staff, as we had expected based on prior experience with local news hunts.

Of all those stories, 1,619 received a rating from 3,503 reviews. Here's how the reviews broke down by regular members, members who received Trusted Member status, and staff:


We reviewed a range of stories across a wide variety of topics. Here are the top 5 most-reviewed stories from the first three months of the pilot:

  1. "Supreme Court Rules For Military Funeral Protesters"
     - from the Associated Press (on WJZ site) -- 51 reviews
  2. "Made (once again) in America"
     - from The Baltimore Sun -- 46 reviews
  3. "On the Trail of Addiction"
     - from Urbanite -- 43 reviews
  4. "More renewable energy policies aim to save money and environment"
     - from Maryland Reporter -- 37 reviews
  5. "The Sun Also Rises"
     - from Urbanite -- 21 reviews

(Note: excluded from this list are several stories we asked all students to review for news literacy tests.)


Other findings

Our team wrote 52 blog posts on the NewsTrust Baltimore Blog, providing informative summaries of the nine news hunts we held in the first three months of the pilot, as well as other important events, accomplishments and milestones. These activities and campaigns produced some positive results; 117 participants advanced to a higher member level, and we identified 58 Trusted Members, who earned the trust of our community through their thoughtful reviews. We also certified 62 student reviewers and gave three superlative awards for their contributions to the site.

Those are our quantitative stats for the NewsTrust Baltimore pilot. In our next post, we'll share a final overview of what we learned from this pilot. Stay tuned for more later this month.

-- by Jon Mitchell and Fabrice Florin


Mapping Baltimore’s news ecosystem

As the NewsTrust Baltimore pilot winds down at the end of July 2011, we are publishing a series of reports about our local news experiment. For the past six months, we have provided a free online service to help local residents find good journalism about their city -- and become more discerning news consumers in the process, thanks to the support of the Open Society Foundations.

In this report by staff writer/researcher Andrew Hazlett and NewsTrust founder Fabrice Florin, we’ll share what we have learned about Baltimore's news ecosystem. See also our other reports to date on our blog: our editorial report, educational and community report, survey results and first pilot statistics.


How are the news media covering public issues in Baltimore? Are local citizens getting the quality journalism they need to make informed decisions about their lives and government? These were some of the key questions we wanted to address during our six-month NewsTrust Baltimore pilot.

In this report, we will share some general findings about Baltimore’s news ecosystem and provide some details about some of the most interesting news sources we reviewed as a community. Our report is based on more than 3,200 reviews of local news stories and opinions during our pilot. The NewsTrust Baltimore site now features a large compilation of qualitative and quantitative data about the local news media, gathered by our staff and hundreds of community members and students. Through the numerical ratings and written observations of local citizens and journalists, we can now map some of the key players in the city’s news ecosystem, with a first look at the perceived quality of their journalism over the past six months.


How Baltimore news happens now

In January 2010, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism published a report entitled "How News Happens." Focusing on a single week in the city of Baltimore, researchers traced several key news storylines as reported in traditional and new media sources. Tightly focused on original reporting of public affairs issues, the study found that newspapers created the vast majority of important news.

The report received a lot of attention when published. As discussed in the New York Times and within journalism circles, the study affirmed the central role of "legacy" print outlets, especially the Baltimore Sun, in generating original reporting that drives all news consumption.

Some took issue with the report’s definition of what qualified as a legitimate news source. At the time the Pew study was released, journalism scholar Jeff Jarvis argued it was a helpful snapshot of a moment in time but did not capture the emerging role of amateur and independent news sources.

Two years after the Pew study’s data was collected, NewsTrust Baltimore now offers new information on how that ecosystem has evolved. Our project is not directly comparable to the Pew study, but it does provide a detailed record of Baltimore news coverage over about six months.

What has changed in the last two years? Our findings reveal a rich, diverse and growing ecosystem of both mainstream and independent news sources in Baltimore.

Where the Pew study focused on a handful of news stories during one week, our project reviewed thousands of individual stories from 120 news sources across a six-month period. While the Pew study included only 10 blogs and online sources that met their criteria, we found newsworthy material from 68 local blogs and online sources, including both professional and amateur operations. We also discovered new or previously unknown sources throughout the life of the project, with informative news stories and insightful commentary from the edges of a rapidly changing news ecosystem. During the six months of this project, we saw some news sources go dark, others come back to life, and new entrants, such as Baltimore Fishbowl, make a splash.

Our observations confirm that Baltimore’s news ecosystem continues to be heavily influenced by The Sun and a few other mainstream news outlets. However, we also found a growing independent journalism scene filled with innovative players, with 70 independent sources representing 37 percent of our story reviews. Across this variety of media, we reviewed quality news and analysis from both independent and mainstream sources, many of which received high ratings regardless of their ownership or size. These diverse journalistic groups complement each other to offer Baltimore citizens a much broader spectrum of factual reporting and insights than we had anticipated when we started this project.

This graphic chart of our top-rated news sources helps visualize some of the key players that stood out for us in the Baltimore ecosystem.


Sources are shown as bubbles on this chart, where they are scattered vertically by quality (average story rating) and horizontally by activity (number of stories listed), with bubble size based on number of story reviews. Note that this chart only features sources that had at least 50 stories listed on our site and 35 or more reviews, to insure that their ratings were based on a sufficient body of work. These ratings, calculated on a 5-point scale, are based on story reviews by our staff and "trusted members" (50 reviewers who demonstrated high news literacy skills, earning a member level of 3 or more) -- instead of overall ratings from all community members (many of whom were students who were just learning these skills).

Here's a more detailed listing of our top 20 news sources that met our above criteria, ranked by rating, and showing their number of stories and reviews, using the same data set from Jan. 31 to July 15, 2011.


While these charts are based on subjective evaluations over a limited time period and cannot be viewed as definitive quality measurements, they do reflect a general consensus among our trusted members about which sources they found to be informative and credible over the course of our six-month pilot.

We are also encouraged by the fact that four out of ten of the top-rated sources on our bubble chart were independent publications (shown in green), which we view as a positive development for the Baltimore news ecosystem.

The pie chart below shows how Baltimore sources broke down between independent and mainstream publications, with a third of the content coming from independent sources, based on the number of stories listed for review on the NewsTrust Baltimore site.  


And here's how the same story data set can be broken down by media type. Again, we note a wide range of diverse media types, particularly online, to complement the steady output from such newspapers as The Sun, The Post, City Paper and The Daily Record.


For more information on how local news sources in various media contributed to the overall news coverage, read our earlier report on the NewsTrust Baltimore blog, where we offered general observations and specific examples of interesting work in print and wire services, television, radio, and online sources.

By necessity, NewsTrust focuses on content that is readily available online. Unfortunately, this excludes a number of broadcast and print-only sources, as well as outlets that restrict access to paying subscribers. Our mission is to help people find good journalism online, so we can only review stories that the public can view on the Internet. This constraint may also exclude under-resourced newsrooms and small neighborhood papers, but readily shared online content is not just a convenience for NewsTrust editors -- it should be an important goal for any entity that works to inform the public.


Featured Baltimore news sources

To complement our overview of Baltimore’s news ecosystem, we feature below brief descriptions of some of the most interesting and representative news sources we reviewed during our pilot, along with links to their source profiles on our site. We selected a handful of major players and some unusual outlets that operate in various corners and niches of the city’s news and information ecology. We like to think of this short list as a "core sample" of the diverse media and styles that compose Baltimore’s news environment. For a complete list of sources we have found, we encourage you to explore our source listings -- and you can even rate these sources here, all on one page. Our many issue-focused News Hunts also provide rich detail on more of the sources that our community evaluated in the course of the project. 

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore’s news "solar system" typically revolves around The Sun, its newspaper of record. Like many newspapers in recent years, The Sun has weathered a revolution in how people consume information, an unprecedented economic crisis and ownership changes. Despite some dire predictions, The Sun has proven flexible and adaptive as the media landscape has changed around it. In the course of our project, no other source came close in number to the 1,171 Sun stories reviewed by the NewsTrust Baltimore community (out of 1,471 Sun stories listed on our site). The Sun excels in coverage of Baltimore’s government at the local and state level and Maryland’s delegation in Washington. No other news source was as comprehensive, in our observations.

NewsTrust Baltimore community members were particularly interested in reading and reviewing the work of Sun reporters Justin Fenton, Michael Dresser, Julie Bykowicz, Julie Scharper and Annie Linskey. These journalists cover crime, transportation and politics at the city and state levels. These are the same topics on which NewsTrust community members have sought out The Sun’s expertise.

We have found The Sun to be an excellent source of both in-depth news and up-to-the moment breaking stories. The online presence of the newspaper is timely and interactive. Blogs maintained by columnists and reporters complement news stories with analysis, context, and (when moderated) a forum for civil public debate.

Here are some notable stats we collected in our evaluation of The Sun, as shown on its source profile on our pilot site:

Overall Rating: 3.8*.
Number of Stories Reviewed: 1,171.
Highly rated for: Facts, Fairness, Accuracy, Information and Relevance. 
Topics covered: Politics, Business, Living, Education, Crime, Sci/Tech, Maryland General Assembly, Health.
Most reviewed authors: Justin Fenton, Michael Dresser, Julie Scharper. 

* All source ratings in this report are on a scale of 1 to 5 and based on a weighted average of story reviews by trusted members, rather than all reviews by community members, for reasons outlined above. As a result, these ratings may vary from the community-wide ratings shown on our public site. 

The Daily Record

The Maryland Daily Record is a statewide business and legal newspaper, published six times a week. The paper reports on commerce, finance, law, business, construction and real estate, with a focus on Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

During the NewsTrust Baltimore experiment, The Daily Record contributed a great deal of enterprising reporting. The launch of our project coincided with a widely-cited investigative series that highlighted problems and setbacks in a massive development project around Johns Hopkins Hospital. The stories generated a City Council hearing and numerous substantial comments from our community. In addition to specialized business news, The Daily Record has established expertise and relevance well outside its niche market.

Overall Rating: 3.7.
Number of Stories Reviewed: 161.
Highly rated for: Facts, Accuracy, Relevance, Transparency. 
Topics covered: Business, Politics, Law, Development, Courts. 
Most reviewed authors: Rachel Bernstein, Nicholas Sohr, Melody Simmons.

City Paper

The Baltimore City Paper dedicated itself in 1977 to provide an alternative source of news and opinions on local politics, communities, culture and the arts in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

While it remains proudly alternative, it has also become something of an institution in Baltimore. Our community members rated the City Paper highly for its blend of lifestyle news and accountability journalism. That combination may be one reason for the paper’s longevity and continued relevance. As an illustration, NewsTrust reviewers praised City Paper stories on subjects ranging from the city’s Environmental Control Board to internet-enabled amateur ornithology

Anna Ditkoff’s Murder Ink column has ensured that homicide victims receive more dignity than is possible in scant police blotter reports.

Overall Rating: 3.7.
Number of Stories Reviewed: 150.
Highly rated for: Facts, Accuracy, Relevance, and Transparency.
Topics covered: Politics, Living, Business, Crime, Culture.
Most reviewed authors: Edward Ericson Jr., Van Smith, Anna Ditkoff.


Publishing a host of stories about innovative people and projects in Baltimore, Urbanite magazine engages in a very direct form of civic journalism. In addition to food, arts and lifestyle reporting and criticism, the magazine has sponsored competitions and exhibitions that encourage creative solutions to urban problems. In addition to a freely distributed print monthly, Urbanite has developed a robust online presence and a new project called The Great Baltimore Check-in -- an interesting integration of social media, location-based services, serious issues and recreation.

Overall Rating: 3.9.
Number of Stories Reviewed: 138.
Highly rated for: Sourcing, Style, Accuracy, Context, Relevance. 
Topics covered: Living, Politics, Business, Culture, Arts, Sci/Tech, Food. 
Top authors: Greg Hanscom, Cara Ober, Michael Corbin.


WBAL-TV is the NBC-affiliated television station in Baltimore. It is one of the flagship stations of the Hearst Corporation, which also owns sister radio stations WBAL and WIYY.

Among Baltimore television stations, the NewsTrust community had particularly strong praise for WBAL-TV. Our editors and community members were drawn to the station’s approach to the news. Strong investigative work by Jayne Miller and other reporters is one distinctive quality of WBAL-TV’s work. Its sister station, WBAL Radio, was also rated highly for its coverage of local issues by NewsTrust members.

Overall Rating: 3.5.
Number of Stories Reviewed: 49.
Highly rated for: Facts, Fairness, Enterprise, Relevance. 
Topics covered: Politics, Baltimore City, Business, Crime, Living, Youth.
Most reviewed authors: Jayne Miller, Sheldon Dutes, Barry Simms.


WYPR is the local NPR affiliate, serving the metropolitan Baltimore area and Maryland with a goal to provide radio programs of intellectual integrity and cultural merit that aim to strengthen the communities it serves.

WYPR spurred the most reviews on NewsTrust Baltimore from among Baltimore’s radio stations. WYPR has reserved a large portion of its airtime for local news and analysis. From in-depth cultural coverage to daily interviews with newsmakers, it seems fitting that our community ranked WYPR especially high on the "originality" and "insights" scales.

Though it can be difficult for broadcast-oriented outlets to extend their work onto online platforms, WYPR has done an admirable job of enhancing their radio journalism with podcast versions and additional material.

Overall Rating: 3.7.
Number of Stories Reviewed: 113. 
Highly rated for: Facts, Originality, Information, Insights. 
Topics covered: Politics, Living, Business, Health, Sci/Tech, Arts.
Most reviewed authors: Sheilah Kast, Stephanie Hughes, Tom Hall.


Baltimore Brew

The Baltimore Brew is a daily online journal featuring independent reporting and informed commentary about greater Baltimore. Founded by Fern Shen, a former Washington Post reporter, the Brew has proven to be a strong source of original reporting and opinion writing on several beats. The Brew has published many news-hunting scoops and informed analysis. By pursuing several stories on an ongoing basis, the Brew has developed authority on such topics as urban bicycling, the Sparrow’s Point steel mill, and downtown development projects. Despite its modest resources, the Brew is an enduring example of quality work outside the institutional frameworks of traditional journalism.

Overall Rating: 3.73.
Number of Stories Reviewed: 274. 
Highly rated for Relevance, Originality, Insight, Accuracy, Information. 
Topics covered: Politics, Business, Living, Transportation, Education, Sci/Tech, Industry, Development
Most reviewed authors: Fern Shen, Mark Reutter, Gerald Neily.


Other noteworthy sources

The prolific and highly-rated sources we featured above were staples of Baltimore’s news diet during our study period. But there were many other quality sources that added flavor, variety and some other essential ingredients. 

* The Afro (formerly The Afro-American Newspaper) is rooted in a rich history dating back to the 19th century. The Afro was highly rated for the information it conveyed and the relevance of its reporting on the black community. It is published from a point of view and cultural context that is underrepresented in Baltimore’s media landscape.

* Baltimore magazine has been published for more than a century and, in addition to stories boosting the local dining and cultural scenes, it provided quality journalism on a number of public issues, as well as in-depth profiles of intriguing individuals.

* AOL’s Patch network of hyperlocal news websites has extended into Baltimore and its suburbs. Patch sites regularly broke stories in the region and covered local community issues particularly well. For example, the Towson Patch was one of our most highly rated sources. The daily churn of neighborhood news stories and event listings proved valuable, but there were also investigative pieces like this one which questioned the authenticity of "grassroots" efforts to push for more speed cameras in Baltimore County.

* The Washington Post does not actively cover Baltimore, but it provided quality news and analysis about Maryland politics, earning a consistently high rating from our reviewers.

* The Maryland Reporter, a nonprofit news operation, provided close coverage of local and statewide politics, producing "wonky" watchdog coverage and a number of stories that no other outlets covered.

* Center Maryland, a nonprofit online news aggregator, added depth, detail and texture to our understanding of the state legislative session in Annapolis and helped us find many quality news stories about local politics which we might otherwise have missed.

* Investigative Voice is an adventurous and energetic source of reporting on crime and politics in Baltimore. While it had a relatively low rating on NewsTrust Baltimore, its reporters and editors worked to break stories on the police and corruption beats.

* Bmore Media reports weekly on social and business innovation in Baltimore and has developed into a formidable source several years after a somewhat rocky start in the city.


The Baltimore blogosphere

In contrast to the Pew study of Baltimore’s news scene, we found a plethora of blogs and other online sources generating news and opinion. Some published only occasionally, others more regularly, but all added something to the conversation. The many voices conversing in the city’s blogosphere include community organizations, impassioned advocates, nonprofit policy groups and private individuals. 

* Adam Meister, who blogs about Baltimore city politics on the Examiner and Charm City Current, did some digging into property records and broke a story that travelled up the media food chain to the point that a City Council member filed a lawsuit against him.

Unsung Baltimore is an example of a personal blog that also covers events and reports news. Written by Kevin Griffin Moreno, a local nonprofit staffer and active NewsTrust Baltimore member, the blog contains personal reflections, and, from time to time, reporting on events in the city. His post "Walbrook Film Project Teaches Students About More Than Holding a Camera" is an example of the real journalistic value that can emerge from a personal blog. 

* The Baltimore Slumlord Watch blog falls outside a lot of our usual categories and measures. It is an anonymous, single-minded blog repeating a steady drumbeat of attention on one issue plaguing Baltimore: neglected properties that degrade the physical and economic landscape of the city, as well as the living conditions of tenants and neighbors. As evidenced by this interview with The Baltimore Sun’s Jamie Smith Hopkins and some recognition from City Paper, the blog has made an impact on a major civic concern. This post on a particularly egregious case of landlord neglect is an example of this blog’s striking work: "Breaking a Rule."

* Audacious Ideas is a blog "created to stimulate ideas and discussion about solutions to difficult problems in Baltimore." It features insightful opinions about important local issues from a variety of community leaders and innovators in Baltimore. Disclosure: this blog is published by the Open Society Institute - Baltimore; its parent organization, Open Society Foundations, funded the NewsTrust Baltimore experiment.


Tweets, updates, streams and flows

During the NewsTrust Baltimore pilot, we have also seen local journalism that does not fit easily into traditional notions of the news media. Increasingly, news gathering and reporting can fall outside the form of an article composed of text for publication on paper or on a static website. We have certainly seen examples of professional reporters — notably The Baltimore Sun’s Justin Fenton and Julie Scharper — using Twitter in innovative ways. Staffers at The Sun also used the Storify service to curate and collect Twitter and Facebook posts from public figures and citizens reacting to the death of former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Email newsletters and discussion lists, often keyed to particular neighborhoods, are also an important news source for some Baltimoreans. The Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance blog lists seven active neighborhood listservs that focus on city parenting.

Within Facebook’s "walled garden," individuals and organizations make announcements and report new information. Communities coalesce around shared interests to share news and perspectives (see, for example, the active Baltimore Tech group).

Baltimore has even become home to a local variation on the web-enabled anonymous-leaking trend in BaltiLeaks. Baltimore Government Watch was also created in the same vein, though quickly shut down.



In the course of half a year, we have had an opportunity to immerse ourselves in the Baltimore news ecosystem. We have been impressed by the overall quality and diversity of the local news landscape. We have seen vital and innovative work by media organizations founded before the Civil War, as well as important news-breaking by amateur bloggers. Our tools helped surface and spotlight quality journalism from many sources in many media -- both mainstream and independent. Even in a time of transition, Baltimore's journalists are providing vital information to area residents.

As Clay Shirky has written about the news media, the local news scene is in a state of flux with more than a little creative chaos. But patterns are emerging. As news startups and impassioned individuals become more rigorous and as traditional news organizations become more open and responsive to the public, there is a growing opportunity for collaboration across the local journalistic community. The energy and reach of amateurs can combine effectively with the expertise, contacts and judgment of professionals. Enabled by social technology, including tools we use at NewsTrust, we are beginning to see deeper connections among all those who seek trustworthy information about their communities. In "Links that Bind Us" — a summer 2011 report from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University — many scholars and analysts explored this networked future of the news. We have witnessed, online and in person, ample evidence of the importance of community and collaboration in building a healthy news ecosystem. 

A local nickname for Baltimore is "Smalltimore," a reference to the city’s tight-knit communities and the first-name basis of many social relationships. In reality, many divides and differences remain. A major achievement of NewsTrust Baltimore has been through our formal partnerships and informal connections with the many individuals and organizations contributing to the local news ecosystem. At our social events and on our website, the people producing quality journalism in Baltimore found a "clean, well-lighted place" where they could meet and exchange ideas with each other and the public. We believe that NewsTrust Baltimore has in effect catalyzed the same community we were invited to study.

As a result, personal bonds were formed between independent and mainstream journalists that might not have developed otherwise, and we are grateful to the local journalism community for participating in this project and for making us feel welcome in their midst. Our experience was itself evidence of Baltimore journalists' openness to experimentation and innovation.

New sources and new journalistic practices are emerging to feed citizens’ information needs. The media landscape is changing rapidly, and news organizations are adapting and transforming as well. Like the 2009 Pew study, our experiment may be capturing moments of transition. Overall, we see substantial progress in legacy media and new independent sources of local news, which encourages us to be optimistic about the future of journalism in Baltimore.

-- By Andrew Hazlett, writer/researcher, NewsTrust Baltimore; and Fabrice Florin, NewsTrust founder 


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


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!


Introducing source reviews on NewsTrust

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

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

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

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


Source reviews 

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

The source review form has three parts:

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


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

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

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


Rate your sources

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



Thanks to our team

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

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

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


Thanks for your participation!


Bringing good news to the surface

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

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

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

Thanks for your participation on NewsTrust Baltimore


The first six weeks of NewsTrust Baltimore

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for helping make this experiment a success!


Reviewers take a look at news about addiction in Baltimore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding inspiration in critiques

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


On the hunt for culture and living stories

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended stories



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you again, and see you on the site!



Posting stories: Use the Force

While community matters to us every week, for the next two weeks NewsTrust Baltimore is making a special effort to focus on capital "C" Community as our main news topic. And we need your help!

You've likely read and reviewed a few stories on our site, but the next step is to post stories yourself. We do what we can to post stories from a wide range of sources. But there may be a story that slips through the cracks, or a new blog that is especially insightful. We need your help to find those hidden gems and to share them with your fellow members. In doing so, you are building your skills as a critical news consumer -- think of it as honing your Jedi powers.

Posting is a pretty simple process, with a few special tricks.

  1. Click on the yellow "Post A Story" button on the top right of any NewsTrust Baltimore page. 
  2. Past the URL of the story you wish to add to the site. 
  3. A new page will open that shows the story and either a frame or a second window for editing the information about the story.
  4. Select "Full Edit Form" from the drop-down menu on the top right.

Now you're ready to fill out the story's info. Follow these tips for mastery!


  1. Fill out the title of the story -- it may have auto-filled, but the automation is not always correct. It should match what is on the story's original page. You also should remove any extraneous source information -- we just want the headline, not the name of the news organization or blog.
  2. Add a subtitle, if there is one, by clicking on the blue "Is there a subtitle?" link just below the title.
  3. Fill in the author, using a comma between writers if there is more than one. If there is no author listed, leave this line blank.
  4. Select the type of story, either news or opinion -- bonus points for being even more specific, like marking it "news analysis" or "editorial." (If you are not sure, sometimes the news source will note the type above the headline.)
  5. For the content field, choose the media of the story. The most commonly used are article, blog post, video, and audio-streaming.
  6. The source of the story is the name of the news source, not the URL. (Sometimes the Associated Press is the actual source, though it is listed on a local news site. In that case, enter "Associated Press.")
  7. Add the following topic tags to the story, pressing "enter" after each one: BaltimoreLocal and Community, if appropriate. (Adding "Baltimore" and "Local" will ensure the story shows up on NewsTrust Baltimore, so these are the two most important!)
  8. Add any other topic tags that are relevant (e.g., Transportation, Maryland Legislature, Judaism). Many tags will auto-fill once you have typed part of a word -- those are our main topic areas. 
  9. Select "local" as the story scope to ensure the story shows up on the NewsTrust Baltimore site.
  10. Make sure you select the date of the story to be the date of publication, not today's date. Otherwise a 2-year-old story about a heat wave could become one of today's top stories!

To read more about posting stories, check out our FAQ.

This is a great week to try posting a story. Share an article about your neighborhood, an opinion about your culture or a report on your interests. Review the article you've posted, and see what other folks recommend. You have become one with the news!


Your reviews in the spotlight

In our fourth week here at NewsTrust Baltimore, our focus is on living and culture stories. So far we've had some great reviews from our members. I'm sharing some of them here today, along with some stories that could use your reviews.

The Baltimore Sun article "A historical battle over Maryland statues," pits history against history, as lawmakers debate whether or not to replace the statue of John Hanson with one of Harriet Tubman in the U.S. Capitol. Reviewers have found this article to be very fair overall. Kevin Griffin Moreno, a program officer and advocacy coordinator at the Baltimore Community Foundation and author of the blog Unsung Baltimore, wrote: "Ms. Bykowicz provides enough historical background, political context, and contrasting viewpoints that readers are able to make up their own minds, confident that they have gleaned the necessary information to do so."

In "Live to Dance" the City Paper reports on an upcoming dance event, interviewing two members of the local DIY dance scene. Asia S. Hinton, a Towson University journalism student, noted that "this story is a bit lengthy but is has all the elements of good journalism." She added that "it also does a great job in describing the emotion and passion of the two subjects in the story."

On the opinion side, the "dime a drink" tax has had its share of coverage. Rebecca Ruggles, a health care program coordinator, reviews "'Dime a drink' tax would cost thousands of jobs" critically, and said: "I think the writer is playing on fears by titling his piece 'Tax costs thousands of jobs'. He fails to address the comparative position of Maryland relative to other states which raised their alcohol taxes long ago."

Please add your voice to the discussions above, or help us review these recent stories:

Thank you for being part of our community in the search for good local journalism!


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!


Making sense of the news as a community

Now in our third week of the NewsTrust Baltimore experiment, we have begun to build a great community of reviewers. I'd like to highlight some of the members and reviews that are making us all look at the news with a new perspective.

The Towson Patch article "Speed Camera Support: Grassroots or Astroturf?"  was a well-reviewed article. Towson University professor Stacy Spaulding comments, "Bryan Sears does an excellent job reporting the connections between a neighborhood advocacy group and a public affairs strategy firm whose client will receive more county speed camera contracts." She also adds, "The article casts a frightening shadow behind these increasingly common Facebook campaigns."

The Baltimore Sun article "Lawmakers look to outlaw reading texts while driving" has this thoughtful review by Towson University student Asia S. Hinton: "Not only was the story interesting, but it brought about many facts that were unknown to me. For example, I did not know that it was only illegal to text while driving, not including reading a text." Asia suggests the reporter could have included "a link to the State Highway Administration, that way readers could look on the website themselves to view more rules and regulations of texting and talking while driving."

And on the opinion side, Bob Herrschaft , a regular contributor to our national site, reviews "The Inner Harbor: What the World Can Learn From Baltimore,"  reading it as "a nice perspective of what has been done in the past to regenerate Baltimore's Inner Harbor and the influence it has had on other cities attempts to revitalize a decaying waterfront."

Lastly, our live news comparison on the Marc Steiner Show Wednesday night gave us a chance to look critically at three stories, all about the same incident - the City Neighbors Middle School protest of the potential demolition of Read's Drug Store. 

Gigi Wirtz, communications director at the Baltimore Community Foundation, reviewed the article "Baltimore students march to save Read’s, site of historic desegregation sit-in"  noting that "the first photos you see are not in front of the building in question, but a much more beautiful, well-kept structure," which could impact how the story is read. 

Malaika Aminata Clements, a Morgan State journalism major who joined us on the air, felt that the same article "used colorful language and gets the reader interested in what is being said" but also that the story could be improved by "showing us why this event is so important, not only locally, but globally."

You can read and review all three stories that we compared from the Baltimore Sun, WJZ-TV, and the Baltimore Brew, and share your own perspective! 

Thank you for being part of our local news experiment -- we are truly community-driven. I will continue to highlight our the reviews and members who help us all become more critical news consumers -- maybe your review will be next!



Business news coverage in Baltimore

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

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

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

Recommended stories



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you again, and see you on the site!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Teaching ourselves some new tricks

As a media educator since the mid-90s, I often find that students come to the class with a very solid worldview and assess the quality of news less on its journalistic merit than on how closely it aligns with their own beliefs.

I've noticed the same is true for me as I get older -- and it's easy to read the news seeking reinforcement for what I already think. 

That is why the review process here at NewsTrust Baltimore is so great: it shakes up our expectations, and helps us look at journalism with a less jaded eye. By taking the time to break down a news story into its parts: the facts, the balance, the sources, the relevance, we give ourselves a chance to think more clearly about the news, and learn how to separate fact from opinion. In the end, we hope, we will become better informed and more thoughtful news consumers (and, for some of us, news producers).

This image does a great job of illustrating how easy it can be to jump to conclusions!


Image from the book "unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation," by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson

Here are some ways to help you think differently as you evaluate stories:

Review stories using the "full rating" form. This is a selection in the drop-down menu at the top-right of the review form. Roll up your sleeves and dig in! With 10 thoughtful questions about the quality of the journalism, you will be analyzing the news like a pro in no time.

Leave a note. Sometimes justifying your observations is difficult. By leaving a note explaining why the story is good (or not so good) journalism, you help make your case. It's possible you may also discover that your review needs to be updated to reflect your notes (this happens to me often!). I see the notes as a way to keep ourselves honest: if you are willing to say it, then you can stand behind your rating. (If you have a personal opinion of the subject matter of the article, use the 'Comments' tab for your thoughts.)

Check out reviews by Tina Carroll, Michael Corbin, and Laura Perkins to see some great examples of thoughtful, critical reviews.

Read and comment on other reviews. We're working as a team to find the best local journalism. Even though we're all at separate desks, by commenting on (and rating) each other's reviews, we are collaborating on this experiment, and building a broader discourse on the journalism and news of our community.

Thank you all for welcoming NewsTrust Baltimore and getting involved. Please sign up if you have not done so, keep reviewing if you have, and tell your friends to join us!


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. 


Some (not-so) secrets about making your reviews count

Gf1squaresm_bweller Hi there! We're so glad you have joined us for our local news experiment, NewsTrust Baltimore. I'm Gin Ferrara, the community manager for this project, and I will be writing a weekly blog post about you - the reviewers, consumers, educators, students, and editors of NewsTrust Baltimore. My job is to make sure that you have the support you need to fully participate in our search for good local journalism and become more critical news consumers and producers in the process. 

I'd like to start by sharing some (not-so) secrets with you: how to make your reviews count. You have gone to all that effort to read a story and thoughtfully rate its journalistic quality -- now what? Here are some things you can do to spread your influence and encourage others to review, too.

  1. Sign up and use your real name. To review on NewsTrust Baltimore, you first need to sign up, using your real name. To keep the site open and welcome -- we like to think of it as "a clean and well-lighted space" -- we need all of our guests, members and reviewers to put on their name tags and be who they really are. On the national NewsTrust site, we have found that this encourages folks to be both respectful and willing to stand behind their opinions.
  2. Fill out your complete profile. Once you've signed up, go back to "My Profile", and fill in all the information about yourself, on each tab, from "Account" through to "Contact Info." The more you Bluemanred
    share, the more transparent you become, and the more your reviews count! This is also a chance to share your credentials and expertise. Adding a picture is a part of being transparent, too, and will prevent you from appearing as a little blue alien in your reviews. And we think you'll find it's nice to connect faces to reviewers; it helps to have some real-world touch points. 
  3. Write a note and a comment with your review. To learn how to review, check our Quick Review Guide. At the bottom of the review form are the words "Expand your review." If you click on that, you will see a window for Notes, Exapndreview as well as Comments, Quotes and Links. Write one or two sentences on the Notes tab about why the article was/was not good journalism. A thoughtful comment about your personal feelings on the subject can be added on the Comments tab. Adding your favorite quote from the article and sharing links to more information on the Quotes and Links tabs will add even more information and will build a bigger discourse on the writing, the subject, and the perspectives of the Baltimore community. 

This week we've had some great reviews -- check out these insightful notes and comments by Khalilah Harris, Christopher Siple and Stacy Spaulding.  I'll be highlighting more reviewers and community members each week, so go ahead and jump right in!

Thank you again for being part of the NewsTrust Baltimore community. 


Welcome to NewsTrust Baltimore!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Please join us on NewsTrust Baltimore. See you online!

Fabrice Florin
Founder and Executive Director
NewsTrust Communications


About NewsTrust Baltimore

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

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