November 6, 2017
Let’s start the week with a feel-good newspaper story: Meet the all-new Baltimore Beat
by Susan Rella
In light of the recent disgustingness that is Gothamist and DNAInfo being shut down because they voted to unionized, here’s a wee bit of good news: Baltimore is getting a new independent newspaper.
But not just any newspaper: Baltimore Beat is a new venture that will be mostly comprised of previous employees of the Baltimore City Paper, which published its last issue at the end of October.
In the Batimore Sun, Lorraine Mirabella writes of the City Paper, “The free weekly that grew out of that 1977 experiment at the Johns Hopkins University became known for first-person and investigative journalism, provocative covers, lengthy calendar listings and an irreverent take on Baltimore culture and politics.” This is pretty nice of the Sun, when you consider their parent company, the Baltimore Sun Media Group, is responsible for the decision to shutter City Paper, a publication they acquired in 2014. But just to remind you there is no such thing as local news anymore, Baltimore Sun Media Group is a subsidiary of tronc (formerly Tribune Publishing). tronc also owns the Chicago Tribune and recently acquired the New York Daily News.
CP’s closing is the latest in a string of local publications shuttering (looking at you, print editions of the Village Voice and San Francisco Bay Guardian). As the Johns Hopkins News-Letter wrote in their elegy to City Paper, the end of the forty-year-run of the publication “reminds us that we cannot take for granted the articles we enjoy every week. Good journalism isn’t free.” They end their op-ed on an even more pointed note: “Let’s be real here for a sec. The closing of The City Paper fucking sucks.”
And while the demise of a smallish free weekly isn’t perhaps as dire as the president of the United States openly targeting journalists, it is still a bummer affecting more than just Baltimore residents. Glenn Dixon of the Washington Post reached out to David Simon, the former Baltimore Sun reporter who created HBO’s “The Wire,” and was told that “The CP was throughout its history a remarkable civic asset, ever more essential as mainstream papers retreated.”
Simon went on to call the closing of the paper “grievous and unfair to Baltimore.”
All this is exactly why the creation of Baltimore Beat—announced the day after City Paper‘s final issue went to press—is so exciting. The free weekly will be published by Brown Naff Pitts Omnimedia (who also publish the Washington Blade), and will begin with a circulation of approximately 30,000 copies. Social media accounts and a website will go live simultaneously, but residents will have to wait at least a couple weeks before they can pick up copies in newspaper boxes; in the interim, look for the paper in office buildings around the city, where staff members are going to be hand-delivering several stacks at a time.
Kevin Naff, the co-owner of BNP Omnimedia and the publisher of Baltimore Beat, told Jonathan Munshaw at the Baltimore Business Journal that the Beat has thus far hired five full-time staff members — three of whom come directly from City Paper. Lisa Snowden-McCray will be the editor-in-chief, Jennifer Marsh will be associate publisher, and Brandon Soderberg (former editor in chief, as well as pot editor) will be managing editor and news editor. An announcement regarding a sales director is expected any day.
Naff was quick to downplay any concerns over starting a new independent in this culture of conglomerates. As he told Munshaw, “I think we wouldn’t have gotten into this if it wasn’t a profitable business model, and I’m confident that it is. Nobody deserves a monopoly, and we’re here to fill a void.”
Susan Rella is the Director of Production at Melville House, and a former bookseller.