Image courtesy: Me, myself, and I
I’m a big fan of the Baltimore Sun, at least until it was bought by Tribune Media, which owns the Chicago Tribune.
Needless to say, an article that starts out with the sentence above is not going to be too kind to the topic at stake. Not even close.
The Baltimore Sun has promised “Light for All” for as long as just about anyone can remember. And until recently, I thought that was exactly what the Sun did as well.
The Baltimore Sun website recently got a face-lift, making it more visually appealing to the reader, and presumably easier to access via a mobile device.
Below is an older version of the Sun website above the newer version.
Throughout the article, right clicking and opening the images in a new tab with enlarge the image to improve visibility.
Ultimately, it was not the aesthetics that caught my eye, it was a new feature of the website that debuted a little farther down the front page. Titled “Your Neighborhood,” the drop-down menu provides the reader with news for their specific area, including community events and crime news.
By “Your Neighborhood,” the Baltimore Sun is including towns like Aberdeen, Bel Air, and even as far west as Mount Airy and as far south as Laurel and Annapolis. In short, the Baltimore Sun is reaching beyond Baltimore.
The new feature seemed excellent, and a great way for Baltimoreans to get local news down to the neighborhood level. Except, the one glaring flaw of the new feature.
The “Your Neighborhood” feature does not include many Baltimore neighborhoods, and the ones it does include are the most well off. The areas in Baltimore City that are included are the likes of:
- Charles Village
- Federal Hill
- Fells Point
- Harbor East
- Locust Point
- Mount Washington
- Owings Mills
- Roland Park
All valid neighborhoods with valid needs and valid concerns, but not exactly Baltimore’s more economically depressed or in-need neighborhoods by any stretch of the imagination. Missing from the list were the likes of Park Heights, Middle East, Irvington, Patterson Park, even Highlandtown and Coldspring and dozens and dozens of others. For shit’s sake, even Homeland missed the cut, HOMELAND!!!
Baltimore is a city of neighborhoods (and this map proves it [link]) and picking and choosing a few that are “easier” to cover is not only disrespectful to the ones that are left out, but to all citizens of Baltimore City.
But, there was one apparent saving grace of this “Your Neighborhood” debacle. In the list of neighborhoods, “North Baltimore City” and “South Baltimore” were included. At least those the Baltimore Sun had donned as the “lessers” could have their news covered, if even within a small fishbowl with dozens of other neighborhoods. The kind of fishbowl with grime on the sides, and not the one from Finding Nemo.
However, when I clicked on “North Baltimore City,” I was not enlightened with news from neighborhoods that had been left out of the original list, but either news from all the chosen neighborhoods complied in one place, with news tidbits from a few others (Park Heights was not among them).
I did find one thing I was looking for, though….
I might be coming off as a little harsh. It is not that I do not think that a middle-schooler winning a contest with “Lily’s Legwarmers” is not a big deal, but in a city like Baltimore, who has not seen a yearly homicide count lower than 170 in about three decades, it seems that there are more pressing matters this city’s newspaper might need to be attending to.
That is not to say that the newspaper as a whole is not focusing at all on the neighborhoods in need, because there is one section of the Baltimore Sun that deserves to be lauded.
“The Darkroom”, the Sun’s home for visual journalism has a series named “Neighborhoods of Baltimore,” in which journalists/photojournalists Mr. Matt Bracken and Ms. Kalani Gordon document quite accurately the neighborhoods of Baltimore City and County, from Park Heights to Greektown to Abell. The series was started earlier in 2014, and seems to be producing one report for each month.
The reports provide a story of what the neighborhood is going through now and what its storied past includes. Each project includes interviews with residents of the neighborhood, many of whom are on neighborhood committees, lifelong residents, individuals dedicated to the neighborhood’s prosperity, or all of the above, and offers an optimistic view of the future while highlighting the neighborhood’s most pressing issues.
While the Baltimore Sun is raising my eyebrows with its implementation of the “Your Neighborhood,” drop-down menu and news sections, it is at least comforting to know that the issues and triumphs of Baltimore are still being portrayed through “Neighborhoods of Baltimore,” even if the reports are tucked away in a corner of the Sun website. After all, the problems of inner-cities, especially Baltimore, have always been just that: tucked away in the recesses of most American’s minds.