The Baltimore Beat is returning as an online venture

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A year after it was shuttered, the Baltimore Beat, an alt-weekly newspaper founded by staffers of the City Paper after its demise, is coming back next month as a nonprofit online journalism outlet.

Lisa Snowden-McCray will return as editor-in-chief, and Brandon Soderberg will work for the organization part-time. The start date is March 6.

The site is aiming to publish stories and other content once a day during the work week. Per a release, Soderberg and Snowden-McCray hope to revive a print edition as a long-term goal, and will also put out one-off special issues.

They’re also planning on holding special events, the first of which is a meet-up with Baltimore Legal Hackers on Feb. 27 at the University of Baltimore, where Soderberg “will discuss the policy-shifting reporting he did with Baltimore Fishbowl’s Ethan McLeod and data scientist Andy Friedman.”

(Full disclosure: I worked with both Soderberg and Snowden-McCray at City Paper, and both have contributed work to Baltimore Fishbowl.)

An effort to revive the Beat started almost as soon as the paper was abruptly closed by publisher Kevin Naff and parent company BNP Omnimedia four months after it was started.

“We began talking about how to keep writing about Baltimore and the surrounding areas pretty soon after we learned we were shut down last March,” Snowden-McCray said in a statement. “Journalism is so important, and with more and more journalists and storytellers losing their jobs, we need to work to create a new paradigm and try something different. That’s what we are doing here.”

Soderberg eventually was able to obtain the Baltimore Beat name, the domain for the old website and the paper’s archives, and last December, the outlet joined the Maryland Delaware D.C. Press Association.

In this iteration, the Beat will operate primarily on donations. The site has set up a Patreon page with an initial goal of getting 1,000 backers contributing $5 a month to pay staffers and freelancers.

Donations will go through the Baltimore Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, a venture started by Soderberg, former City Paper and Real News Network editor Baynard Woods and radio host Marc Steiner. (A portion will go to Steiner’s Center For Emerging Media, the fiscal sponsor of BINJ).

Per the release, Beat editors will also seek grants and other funding sources.

The editorial focus on social justice issues, activism and the city’s arts and dining scenes will remain the same.

“Research shows that corruption flourishes when citizens don’t know what’s going on,” the organizers wrote in their funding pitch. “We keep people accountable. We also expose people to new things. There is a dearth of information about the arts and food in the city. These scenes continue to thrive but lack the persistent and thoughtful media coverage they deserve because there are less and less outlets in Baltimore and the ones that exist can only cover so much.”

True to form, news of the Beat‘s revival spread earlier today on Twitter, as Soderberg tweeted footage from a student walk-out at Johns Hopkins University protesting the school’s connections to ICE on the outlet’s account.

“I planned on covering the walk-out already for an upcoming piece and thought it made sense to show and prove a little because I knew we would be announcing this soon, so I tweeted from the Beat’s Twitter account instead of my own,” he wrote in an email. “And then we got a really encouraging response so I figured I’d announce it right then and there.”

Brandon Weigel

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