(Left to right) Stewart Bainum Jr., chairman of The Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism; Kimi Yoshino, editor in chief of The Baltimore Banner; and Imtiaz Patel, chief executive of the Venetoulis Institute. The Baltimore Banner is expected to launch in 2022 under the local news nonprofit Venetoulis Institute, which launched on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. Photos courtesy of the Venetoulis Institute.

Los Angeles Times managing editor Kimi Yoshino has been named the inaugural editor in chief of The Baltimore Banner, an all-digital news outlet that is slated to launch in 2022.

The Baltimore Banner will be overseen by The Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism, a nonprofit news organization in Baltimore whose launch was announced on Tuesday. The nonprofit is named after the late Ted Venetoulis, a former Baltimore County executive, television analyst and supporter of local news who died at the beginning of October.

Choice Hotels executive Stewart Bainum Jr. has been working on plans to launch a non-profit digital newsroom after failed bids to buy The Baltimore Sun and other newspapers formerly owned by Tribune Publishing before they were grasped by the New York-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

The Banner is slated to begin operations next year with about 50 journalists and an annual operating budget of $15 million.

“Since the beginning, we’ve been focused on bringing unbiased, locally owned news to the Baltimore community to hold our leaders accountable and report on the varied stories of our region and our times,” Bainum, chairman of The Venetoulis Institute, said in a statement.

The nonprofit is named in honor of Venetoulis, who fought to bring The Baltimore Sun under local, nonprofit ownership — a goal that ultimately was not reached.

“The Institute will establish a more sustainable model for locally owned, nonprofit news,” officials with the nonprofit said in a press release. “The Institute’s mission is to expand local news coverage in the Baltimore region and become an indispensable resource that strengthens, unites, and inspires the Baltimore community through unbiased, quality journalism.”

Before being named to lead The Baltimore Banner, Yoshino worked for 21 years at the Los Angeles Times, where she rose from a reporter to several newsroom leadership positions and most recently served as the newspaper’s managing editor.

As the Los Angeles Times’ business editor, Yoshino oversaw #MeToo investigative stories and helped lead coverage of corruption in the city of Bell, which earned the Pulitzer Prize gold medal for public service.

She spent her first year as a metro reporter covering Disney’s accountability for dangerous accidents, including an incident in which a Disneyland ride crushed 4-year-old Brandon Zucker, who suffered serious brain damage and died eight years later.

Previously, Yoshino worked as a reporter at The Fresno Bee and The Stockton Record, two local newspapers in California.

“I am excited to return to my roots in local journalism,” Yoshino said in a statement. “It is critically important to Baltimore — and to cities around the country — that we develop a successful model for sustainable local news. With Stewart’s commitment, I believe we have a shot at figuring this out. I can’t wait to start building this newsroom.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that Yoshino was “well-placed” to take the paper’s top spot until 2020, when a food section editor, whom Yoshino had hired, resigned amid staffers’ public accounts of sexual harassment and toxic behavior.

The Times reported that Yoshino said she regretted not seeing the issues and taking action.

Yoshino’s last day at the Los Angeles Times will be Nov. 12, the paper reported.

Billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, who bought the Los Angeles Times from Tribune Publishing Company in 2018 and was the second-largest shareholder of Tribune Publishing, in fact played a pivotal role in the vote to approve Alden’s purchase of Tribune.

Despite Tribune staff members’ pleas for Soon-Shiong to vote against approving Alden’s purchase of the company earlier this year, Soon-Shiong abstained from voting. But because he did not check the “abstain” box on his proxy ballots, the ballots were counted in support of the board’s recommendation in favor of Alden’s bid, sealing the deal.

The Venetoulis Institute also appointed Imtiaz Patel to serve as its chief executive officer. In that role, he will lead business operations and help build the digital newsroom in Baltimore’s downtown business district.

Patel most recently advised news organizations such as The Philadelphia Inquirer, Gannett and USA Today on their digital growth and transformation.

As a former executive with Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal, Patel aided the rapid growth of digital subscriptions and managed niche business markets.

“Our goal is to become the leading provider of local news and lifestyle content in the region, spanning multiple media platforms,” Patel said in a statement. “For The Venetoulis Institute to be successful, it will take partnerships and support from likeminded organizations and the public. We look forward to delivering local news that the public values and our readers are willing to support.”

Bainum said Patel and Yoshino will both contribute to the success of The Venetoulis Institute and The Baltimore Banner.

“Their collective experience and expertise will be instrumental in building a diverse newsroom capable of reporting daily news, investigative journalism, and lifestyle and sports content that Baltimoreans care deeply about,” Bainum said in a statement. “Our success will be measured by the quality of our journalism, the service that we provide to the community, and the partners and subscribers willing to support local news.”

The Venetoulis Institute and The Baltimore Banner will rely on paying subscribers as well as individual and institutional donations to fund their operations. Contributions to the nonprofit news organization will be tax deductible.

The Atlantic reported earlier his month that Bainum had been meeting with the owners of local-news start-ups, including The Texas Tribune, the Daily Memphian, and The City in New York, in preparation for launching his own local news nonprofit.

The Atlantic article also said Venetoulis was the one who advised Sun reporters to “pick a noisy public fight” as they rallied against ownership by Alden. The hedge fund has attracted a reputation as being a newsroom “vampire” and “the grim reaper of American newspapers” for making drastic cuts to the publications it owns.

Among the supporters of The Baltimore Banner, the nonprofit The Lenfest Institute for Journalism has been advising Bainum and his team since November 2020, and has served as a model of a local news nonprofit for The Venetoulis Institute.

“We are excited to serve as a supporter and strategic resource as The Baltimore Banner and The Venetoulis Institute bring sustainable, community-supported public-service journalism to the Baltimore region,” Jim Friedlich, chief executive of The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, said in a statement.

Former Democratic presidential candidate, New York City mayor and Bloomberg News co-founder Michael R. Bloomberg praised Bainum for adding another local news outlet to Baltimore.

“The talented team Stewart is assembling reflects his deep commitment to Baltimore, and I’m looking forward to reading their work— and seeing the positive impact they will have on the life of the city,” Bloomberg said in a statement.

The Venetoulis Institute is hiring for newsroom and business positions.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...