Before the dust even settled, a new alt-weekly has announced it’s moving into Baltimore to help fill the void left by the very recent shutdown of City Paper.
Baltimore Beat will debut Nov. 15, according to an announcement from this morning. Its owner is Brown Naff Pitts Omnimedia, the same company behind the Washington Blade, the United States’ oldest gay newspaper, and the recently launched Los Angeles Blade out west.
Baltimore Beat is a “comprehensive guide to Baltimore and covers local news and the arts with its ears and eyes open to the community and a focus on long-form storytelling,” according to its website. Similarly to City Paper (minus the iconic yellow boxes), it’ll be available for free at bars, restaurants, gyms and other spots around town.
Its initial masthead includes some familiar names in local alt news. Lisa Snowden-McCray, formerly associate editor for City Paper and, for a brief stint, a community coordinator at The Sun‘s opinion desk, will serve as editor in chief. Brandon Soderberg, City Paper’s last-ever editor in chief, will be Baltimore Beat’s managing editor and news editor.
In a phone interview this morning, Soderberg said he sees Baltimore Beat “continuing what the paper did, not really replacing it.”
“We want to do different stuff. We wanted to kind of re-imagine what an alt-weekly could be, and collaboration is a big part of it.”
Those collaborations will include working with former City Paper editor-at-large Baynard Woods, now reporting for Real News Network in Baltimore, on multimedia coverage, and running coverage by reporters with the Blade, which has historically been a force for gays news coverage in the region.
“I’ve always, in a totally spirit-of-competition kind of way, been frustrated by the Blade covering gay life in Baltimore better than we did,” Soderberg said. “It’s exciting…the idea is that we want to collaborate and be part of the community.”
Snowden-McCray, who also previously wrote for the Afro-American, said Baltimore Beat will offer perspectives from the city that are oftentimes missing in local news coverage, and will cover the news “in a way that has kind of historically been ignored.”
“Journalism is very white,” she said. “We need diversity, we need to hear more voices, we need to hear more perspectives. Hopefully that’ll be what this helps give the city.”
On the business end, BNP Omnimedia co-owner Kevin Naff will serve as publisher, while Jennifer Marsh, who served as publisher, general manager and more in her 28 years with City Paper, will be the newspaper’s associate publisher.
Naff, a Baltimore resident of 25 years, said the idea to open a new alt-weekly here began with CP blogs editor Brandon Weigel’s July story about the Sun‘s decision to close City Paper. Soderberg was quoted appealing for someone to buy the publication, so Naff reached out and got his business partners on-board.
“We looked into it, and I don’t think The Sun, at the end of the day, was interested in selling it,” said Naff, who also worked for The Sun from 1996 t0 2000 and helped the paper launch its website.
He and his team also offered to pay to license the City Paper name, “but they weren’t interested in that either, so we decided to go our own way. And honestly, I think that was for the best.”
The fact that BNP Omnimedia owns several papers, rather than more than 50 like The Sun’s parent company, tronc, should benefit Baltimore Beat in multiple ways, Soderberg said. For crucial tasks like selling ad space, he says the paper won’t have to deal with as much bureaucracy as City Paper did after it was acquired by tronc.
“We can move fast, we can make decisions,” he said. “We have more of an ability to ask people in the city, business owners, what do you need out of the advertiser?”
And there will be more freedom on the editorial end as well, including more chances to collaborate with other independent outlets.
“We can improvise and make decisions based on who we want to work with and who wants to work with us,” Soderberg said, adding, “in this city, we all should be coming together more, especially as news outlets.”
This story has been updated.