This blog post about our NewsTrust Baltimore local news experiment was written by NewsTrust Baltimore writer Andrew Hazlett and originally published on our Baltimore blog on May 11, 2011. It is republished here for the benefit of our national community.
Instead of a traditional weekly news hunt, we are spending May immersed in a broad range of issues facing Baltimore. Each week, we are studying local news coverage through the lenses of different types of media. Last week, we focused on newspapers, wire services and magazines.
Even in a time of transition in the media landscape, newspapers remain a cornerstone of Baltimore's journalism ecosystem. From The Baltimore Sun to community weeklies, these publications often set the local news agenda.
Wire services like the Associated Press are the original instant news outlets. Their stories are published in print newspapers and offered to online and broadcast media outlets. Students at the University of Maryland's Merrill College of Journalism operate the Capital News Service and provide some excellent coverage of Maryland topics, such as illegal oyster harvesting.
Magazines offer an opportunity to step back from the daily stream of news and to take in a bigger picture. Monthly publications like Urbanite magazine often pair insightful writing with striking visuals. Baltimore magazine's story about the Enoch Pratt Free Library is one example of this powerful combination.
Themes in print coverage
Over the course of last week, as we reviewed stories published in these outlets, we saw some recurring themes.
One crucial function of a widely read mainstream newspaper is to provide a forum for civil debate. In addition to regular columnists and op-ed pieces, The Baltimore Sun often publishes opposing arguments on vital topics. Some of Baltimore's greatest challenges stem from the illegal drug trade, widespread addiction, drug-related crime and large-scale incarceration. Last week, the Sun published opposing views on one approach to tackling those problems: "Drug courts work — I've seen it" and "Drug courts are not the answer."
In addition to the Sun, Baltimoreans have a wide choice of newspapers. There are spirited independent publications and tightly focused professional papers. Some cover specific beats, like The Daily Record on business and law. Others serve particular neighborhoods, community interests or political points of view. Last week, the progressive Indypendent Reader publicized a report by labor activists about the conditions of workers at Inner Harbor businesses.
Crime and justice issues are always in the background (and often front and center) in Baltimore's news landscape. From a surge in crime in northeast Baltimore to a terrible case of animal cruelty, the city's newspapers are often the source of record. City Paper's weekly "Murder Ink" column is just one example of this important role.
Even as ambitious development projects and are under way (and under debate), people in Baltimore are worried and skeptical about the long-term impact of efforts like the Red Line transportation project. As covered in the City Paper, long-time tenants are being forced out to make way for another major development project. At the same time, educational and recreational programs for underserved youth are diminished by scarce resources and bureaucratic errors.
In many of these cases, race and legacies of racism play a major role. In "The Power of Pictures" Urbanite magazine explored a fascinating artistic effort to confront and surpass stereotypes of black men and boys.
At the same time, as covered by The Baltimore Sun and the Baltimore OUTloud newspaper, a violent attack on a transgendered woman in a Baltimore County McDonald's has sparked a new urgency in civil rights advocacy.
Join us in the hunt for good journalism
These are just a few of the fascinating stories and deeper themes that have emerged in the first week of our monthlong news hunt. We hope that you'll take a closer look at some of these stories and help us identify other examples of outstanding local journalism.
This week we're examining television news sources in Baltimore. How do they handle these important issues? What are we missing as we collect and review stories? Add your voice to the conversation!