By: Sophia Naughton, Staff Writer
In October, it was announced that a new, fully digital news outlet is planning to launch in Baltimore next year called The Baltimore Banner.
The newspaper will be led by Choice Hotels chairman and businessman Stewart Bainum Jr. According to The Baltimore Fishbowl, the platform will be funded by The Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism, a nonprofit organization dedicated to Ted Venetoulis, a television analyst and local news supporter who died in early October.
Lauren Proudfoot, a Towson University junior studying journalism, said she is curious to see how The Baltimore Banner will affect The Baltimore Sun.
“I’m wondering if the new news outlet will push The Baltimore Sun to the back burner,” said Proudfoot.
According to The New York Times, Bainum Jr. previously attempted to purchase The Baltimore Sun, but after the failed effort, is now bringing his own newspaper to Baltimore.
“My initial reaction is more local news is always a good thing,” said Taylor DeVille, a reporter from The Baltimore Sun. “And I do think there are gaps in The Sun’s news coverage that could really use someone else coming in and tackling that.”
DeVille is currently the only reporter covering Baltimore County government at The Sun, which is also within the third largest jurisdiction in Maryland.
“There’s a huge hole in reporting there and it would be really interesting to see what The Banner’s plans would be to cover the Baltimore suburbs,” said DeVille. “All of us are happy about a broader news ecosystem, while acknowledging the competition that is surely to come.”
DeVille said reporters from The Sun are skeptical of The Banner’s ambitious goal of achieving 100,000 subscribers when Bainum Jr. has no experience in news.
“It’s not only attracting them [readers], you have to retain them,” said DeVille. “For comparison, The Chicago Tribune, which is part of our company, has 100,000 digital subscribers, so I just don’t know how achievable that is.”
With The Banner starting, new job opportunities will be opening up for reporters in the area. DeVille said it is possible Sun reporters will make the switch.
“I think anyone that would say they’re not considering it is lying,” said DeVille. “I’ve been cautioned not to drink The Banner Kool Aid and so, I think that’s kind of how a lot of us feel, but again, when it comes down to wages and benefits, I think that’s something the executives do need to be worried about.”
Charles Doxzen, a Towson University junior studying journalism, said he thinks the competition will inspire improvement within the local news community.
“I assume it would inspire other publications to be better and do better research and just take their craft more seriously now that there’s more competition,” said Doxzen. “If multiple people are getting after the same story and content, you [have to] be the first one to it and be more creative with your angle because if everyone’s writing about it in the same way, nothing’s gonna stand out.”
Doxzen has expectations for The Banner’s news coverage to represent both the good and bad of Baltimore accurately.
“Hopefully the people writing for it are familiar with the community and care about Baltimore and want to see it covered in an accurate way, but also shed light on positive stuff because a lot of news around Baltimore is very negative,” said Doxzen. “Obviously that still should be covered, but also to shed light on some positive stuff and some things that are moving in the right direction.”
Proudfoot looks forward to the addition of a new news outlet and hopes for a new source of unbiased, trustworthy information.
“It’s probably going to be a little difficult to decide what’s new and what’s fake when coming out with news, especially if we don’t know the sources of their stories,” Proudfoot said. “News outlets like The Baltimore Sun have spent years building their répertoire.”
The Baltimore Sun has a deep-rooted history of almost 200 years in Baltimore. It was founded in 1837 and continues to be a leading source of local news.
“The Sun has this footprint that has been here for longer than any other news source in this area,” said DeVille. “It’s well established. I believe it has a decent reputation, and there are always going to be people that are critical, which is fair. But, we have some really great reporters. I think the reason The Sun continues to do well is because of the reporters.”
DeVille describes the Baltimore reporter scene as a close community. There will soon be additions to the community with the introduction of future Baltimore Banner reporters.
“I think that even if you’re working for different news outlets, I think there’s a sense of camaraderie that we generally feel and that I would hope would continue here,” said DeVille. “And maybe that could even lead to better stories and better reporting.”
Towson’s career center has connections with many businesses for student internship and career opportunities. Lorie Logan-Bennett, assistant vice president of career services at Towson University said the career center is looking into The Banner.
“Since it’s new, they’re gonna need a lot of people and new ideas, so this is probably a great opportunity for people like us that want to get involved in the field and get experience to work with a paper at its birth,” said Doxzen. “Instead of The Sun, which is already established, this is kind of just getting its foot off the ground. We could get in at the early stages and see how it develops.”
The Baltimore Banner is set to begin in 2022 and plans to hire 50 starting reporters.