The Real News Network has partnered with the Baltimore Beat, a new alternative weekly paper, set to launch on Nov. 15. The paper, which is owned by the company that owns the Washington Blade and the Los Angeles Blade, rises out of the ashes of the Baltimore City Paper, which was shut down by the Baltimore Sun Media Group on Nov. 1.
Lisa Snowden-McCray, who left the City Paper to work for the Sun earlier this year, will be the editor-in-chief.
“This has been a chance to really put my money where my mouth is in that I talk a lot about diversity in journalism and journalism is very white and this is an opportunity to be a black woman who is editorially in charge of this paper in a black city. And that’s very important,” Snowden-McCray said in an interview. “I have nothing bad to say about the Sun but I think it needs to happen in 2017. We’re seeing all these papers close and it looks really bad, and it is bad, but to see a small paper at least say we’re going to give it a try in Baltimore, a place where we’re still dealing with issues of police brutality and pretty much entrenched racial issues, to see people trying is a good sign for the city and a good sign for journalism everywhere.”
Kevin Naff, the editor of the Washington Blade, will serve as publisher, with Jennifer Marsh as associate publisher. Marsh worked at City Paper for more than 25 years. She left her position as the paper’s publisher by Times-Shamrock shortly before its sale to the Sun in 2014. After the sale she worked as the publisher again until the summer of 2015.
“The Beat will look to partner with like-minded organizations as we cover the city,” Naff said. “The first of those partnerships is with our sister publication, the Washington Blade, which will provide its award-winning coverage of the LGBT community to the Beat. In addition, we have partnered with the innovative Real News Network and its stellar team of reporters to bring Beat readers even more local news.”
Brandon Soderberg, the last editor-in-chief of the City Paper, will serve as managing editor. Soderberg founded the Baltimore Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (BINJ-Baltimore) last summer with Baynard Woods, a former City Paper Managing Editor, and radio host Marc Steiner, with the goal of increasing collaboration among small media outlets.
“At the Beat, we want to continue what an alt-weekly like City Paper did especially when it comes to advocacy journalism, but we also want to break bad habits and get out from under the kind of glib and rather white hipster shadow of the alt-weeklies,” Soderberg said. “The goal here is collaboration: local news that’s decentralized and more accountable to communities it covers.”
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Woods, who worked for the Guardian covering criminal justice and poverty in Baltimore, resigned his position as editor at large with the City Paper last month and began working for the non-profit Real News Network as editorial director, in charge of developing text-based stories for the primarily video-based site. Under Woods’ guidance, the Real News will supply news stories to the Beat, whose reporters and editors will appear on-air for the Real News .
“This is exactly the kind of collaboration we had in mind when we were starting BINJ,” Woods said. “At mainstream outlets, profit comes first and that sets up a competitive model. We realized the only way to do justice to the people of Baltimore is to throw that aside for a model of collaboration.”
The Real News, a 501(c)(3) which was originally founded in Canada in 2003, moved to Baltimore in 2013, to a building a block from City Hall, which will temporarily also serve as offices for the Beat.
Since 2013, The Real News Network has been committed to increasing its coverage of the city and building a robust Baltimore bureau, with reporters and commentators like Eddie Conway, Eze Jackson, Jaisal Noor, Stephen Janis, Taya Graham, and Dharna Noor.
“We think the path to real democracy in America runs through its cities,” said Paul Jay, the founder and CEO of The Real News Network. “A crucial element of this process is an independent news organization that speaks to people about their immediate concerns and links those to systemic solutions—a news organization that helps people see the patterns.”
The Real News Network’s commitment to independent, verifiable, fact-based journalism that
engages ordinary people in solving critical problems in their communities, is an obvious fit for a new alternative weekly.
“We are here to hold politicians accountable, to be voices for people in this city who have historically been ignored, and to help right deeply entrenched wrongs,” Snowden-McCray said of the Beat’s mission.
“Our goal is to engage thousands of ordinary people in taking up critical problems for solution,” Jay added. “This means helping people make informed choices so that they can better organize and vote for effective public policy in the interests of the majority of the people of Baltimore.”
Photo: Baltimore Beat editor-in-chief Lisa Snowden-McCray
BAYNARD WOODS: For The Real News Network, I’m Baynard Woods. I’m here on Holiday Street in front of our offices with Lisa Snowden-McCray, the Editor-In-Chief of the newspaper announced today, The Baltimore Beat. Hi Lisa. LISA SNOWDEN-MCCRAY: Hello. How are you? BAYNARD WOODS: I’m doing great. We should disclose we know each other. We’re friends. We’ve worked together. And we’re going to be working together again, which is what is exciting about this. So, what is The Baltimore Beat? LISA SNOWDEN-MCCRAY: The Baltimore Beat is an all-weekly here in the city. We’re going to be focusing on all the important stuff, hard news, Arts, Music, the social scene in Baltimore. Everyone needs covering. BAYNARD WOODS: And so the city paper had its last issue come out yesterday. You worked at the city paper. I used to work at the city paper as well. You were working for the Baltimore Sun. LISA SNOWDEN-MCCRAY: Yes. BAYNARD WOODS: Yesterday. And today you’re the Editor-In-Chief of The Beat. Why did you take such a …? I mean, it’s a really daring move to go from the most sort of established and safe position to take a chance and starting an all-weekly in 2017. LISA SNOWDEN-MCCRAY: It just really felt like a good opportunity for me to put my money where my mouth is, kind of, because one of the things that I always talk about is that there needs to be more diversity in Journalism. There needs to be more voices, more access for people, and this is literally the perfect opportunity to do it. One of the things that I think is had, one of the things that journalism, professionals had to figure out is how to do it. So, with this situation, with us being able to collaborate with you guys, being able to collaborate with the Washington Blade, collaborating with other smaller papers in the city and other outlets like … It’s really … You can really do a lot in kind of like a very lean machine. BAYNARD WOODS: Yes. So, let’s flesh out that collaboration a little bit more. The Washington Blade owns the new paper. LISA SNOWDEN-MCCRAY: Yes. BAYNARD WOODS: The Baltimore Beat. And then we here at the Real News Network are going to be providing some of the news stories for the Beat. And then you guys at the Beat are going to be … some of the arch reporters and stuff and going to be coming live on air to talk about Arts events and stuff in the city. To me, that kind of collaboration is really exciting and what we really need in this city. How does that feel to you, to come into this thing knowing that there … you’re going to be working with a lot of other, a wider pool of reporters? LISA SNOWDEN-MCCRAY: It’s exciting. The one thing that Baltimore does not have is a lack of talented people. Just today, people have been hitting me up: “Do you guys need reporters?” So, like, to be working with so many passionate people, it’s a good thing; it’s a good thing for me because it’s exciting; but I think it’s a good thing for Baltimore, too. BAYNARD WOODS: And when does the first issue hit the streets? LISA SNOWDEN-MCCRAY: November 15. And it is going to be in print as well as online because that was important to us, that people could access a physical paper that you could hold in your hand. BAYNARD WOODS: Yeah, I mean, it’s a city like this where up to 20% of the population doesn’t have regular access to the internet. It’s another way that we can really reach out of the most affluent parts of the city into other parts of the city. Where is it going to be distributed? LISA SNOWDEN-MCCRAY: Everywhere. Everywhere. Everywhere we can get. So places like Dovecote. Places like Oyin Handmade that are kind of like hubs. Gas stations. Grocery stores. You know. Anywhere pretty much you sell city papers. We’re not going to have any boxes yet, but you’ll still be able to get your hands on it. BAYNARD WOODS: So, we have a lot more chances now to keep the, to hold people accountable right behind us in City Hall. In the Courts. So, I look really forward to working with you as we go forward with this. Lisa Snowden-McCray. I’m Baynard Woods with The Real News.