Baltimore, May 13, 2022 — A team of journalists and nonprofit practitioners led by Editor-in-Chief Lisa Snowden announced today the return of Baltimore Beat, a Black-led, Black-controlled nonprofit newspaper and online outlet.
In the traditions of the Black press and the alternative weekly, Baltimore Beat’s community-focused reporting prioritizes thoughtful engagement with local readers—especially those with limited internet access and those who are a part of underrepresented communities.
To make sure news gets to those with the least access, the Beat will begin publishing and distributing a free newspaper every other week starting this summer, with plans to strategically expand distribution and frequency of publication over time. For Snowden, free print news is a necessity in Baltimore, a majority Black city with a significant digital divide and so many people living below the poverty line.
“The pandemic continues to highlight the many, many inequities that exist in our communities,” said Snowden, formerly an editor at The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore City Paper, and The Real News Network. “Our decision to forgo a paywall and distribute a print newspaper is our way of addressing those inequities. We want to make sure everybody can access the nuanced reporting we’ll be doing.”
Baltimore Beat will rely on support from Baltimore readers and likeminded large-scale donors who understand that reporting must reflect the diversity and experiences of all Baltimoreans and hold those in power accountable through investigative work, literary storytelling, and service journalism.
Joining Editor-in-Chief Snowden is Baltimore Beat’s Deputy Editor J. Brian Charles, who has been reporting on Baltimore gun violence at The Trace for the past two years and has previously worked at Chalkbeat, Governing, and The Hill.
“Baltimore has always been an important city in the story of Black America. It is a place where communities are faced with corrupt policing, substandard housing, underfunded schools, power-serving politics, and an overdose crisis, among many other issues,” Charles said. “Our publication will document the challenges facing Baltimore and show readers how communities here continue to develop ideas to address and get past those challenges.”
The Beat’s Arts and Culture Editor Teri Henderson is formerly a staff writer for BmoreArt and gallery coordinator for Connect + Collect, and is the author of the 2021 book Black Collagists.
“Art is always political and at Baltimore Beat we will tell the stories of those artists and creatives whose contributions are often overlooked or ignored by news outlets that focus on the predominantly white art world,” Henderson said. “Baltimore Beat will provide a space for creative reflection and celebration of the artistic and creative contributions of Black Baltimoreans.”
The Beat’s Director Of Operations Brandon Soderberg is the former editor-in-chief of Baltimore City Paper, coauthor of the 2020 book I Got a Monster, and an advocate for mindful, person-first journalism. His experiences as both reporter and publisher make him uniquely situated to strategically assist the Beat.
“After two years of work on this with the staff and a team of community-minded financial and nonprofit folks, I’m elated to finally tell the city: Baltimore will have a news outlet that reflects Baltimore’s majority Black population and prioritizes the city’s working class concerns,” Soderberg said. “You’ll see intentionality in every aspect of the Beat: from how we report to how we distribute our paper to how we operate our nonprofit newsroom.”
Baltimore Beat was established in 2017 following the closure of alt-weekly institution Baltimore City Paper. The Beat began as a for-profit weekly newspaper, shuttered in 2018, and transitioned to a nonprofit online outlet focused on service journalism and high-impact investigative work in 2019.
In 2020, the Beat paused its journalistic operation to strategize the start of a nonprofit newspaper with support from the Baltimore-based Lillian Holofcener Charitable Foundation. In response to the police murder of George Floyd and inequities exacerbated by COVID-19, The Lillian Holofcener Charitable Foundation made the bold decision to provide the Beat with the vast majority of the foundation’s holdings, creating a longer runway towards sustainability for the publication.
“The money held by the Lillian Holofcener Foundation came from Baltimore. Divesting our assets to a Black-led news organization is what Baltimore and its majority Black citizenry need right now,” Lillian Holofcener Charitable Foundation’s Adam Holofcener said. “We hope that our model of no-strings attached, large-scale giving to Black-run, Black-controlled local organizations inspires other Baltimore philanthropic groups to act in kind.”
For EIC Snowden, this is an important opportunity to change the mood and tenor of local news.
“Journalism is still a very white industry. There aren’t a lot of places Black journalists can go where they will be valued, heard, and respected,” Snowden said. “I want Baltimore Beat to be a place where that can happen.”
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