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The Dripby Fern Shen9:11 amJan 31, 20110

NewsTrust Baltimore launches conversation on media in the city

How can reporting in Baltimore be better? How can individual stories about Baltimore be better? And how —  in a diminished-yet-media-glutted time where there often seem to be “57 Channels (and Nothing On),” as Bruce Springsteen put it — do we judge what “better” really is?

Today NewsTrust Baltimore is launching a two-month pilot program to ask these sorts of questions and start a community dialogue about what good journalism looks like in Baltimore. Baltimore Brew is a media partner in the project.

NewsTrust, whose founder is Fabrice Florin, is a national social network that helps people identify quality journalism. Based in Mill Valley, Calif., NewsTrust has so far focused on national issues and media, partnering with news organizations that include The Washington Post, Huffington Post and PBS.

The Baltimore project, funded by a grant from the Open Society Foundations,  will have the same basic idea as the national NewsTrust site– to feature the best news coverage from online, print and broadcast outlets and give people the online tools to  rate it. Think Yelp, but for the daily news.

“This is a unique opportunity to help Baltimore citizens become better informed and more engaged about local issues — especially college and high school students,” said Florin, NewsTrust’s executive director, in a news release about today’s launch.

“Our service will show them how to tell good journalism from misinformation, so they can become more discerning news consumers,” Florin said.

Participants can sign up for NewsTrust and rate stories for accuracy, fairness, context and other journalistic qualities. The goal, organizers say, is to stimulate Baltimore area readers and viewers to examine their local news ecosystem and and identify its most reliable sources.

Open Society officials said there is a clear civic value to identifying and promoting good reporting.

“NewsTrust Baltimore will help all of us in this region to identify reliable, high-quality journalism, become better informed about what is happening in the community, and make better decisions,” said Diana Morris, director of Open Society Institute – Baltimore.

For this project, NewsTrust will partner with a number of local news organizations, including the Baltimore Sun, Baltimore magazine, The Mark Steiner Show (WEAA-FM), Urbanite Magazine and WYPR-FM, as well as online sites, including Baltimore Brew, Center Maryland, Citybizlist and Baltimore-area Patch sites.

As media partners Brew and these other sites will invite our audiences to participate in this interactive quest, and many will include NewsTrust feeds and widgets on their websites. (Watch for ours to go up today.) In the meantime, go to the site, and start evaluating articles and commenting. If you have something to say about what does or doesn’t get reported in Baltimore, here’s a way to put it out there.

The site features a smashing investigative series debuting today, by great coincidence, in The Maryland Daily Record about the missed deadlines, murky finances and unmet goals of the Johns Hopkins east side biotech park.

NewsTrust is also partnering with several local colleges and high schools, including Towson University, the University of Maryland, Morgan State University, the Baltimore Freedom Academy and The Baltimore Civitas School. These educational partners will train their students to rate and curate the news on their own group pages, earning certificates for their work.

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