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New Nonprofit News Outlet Baltimore Banner Launches Website

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The Baltimore Banner, an all-digital non-profit news outlet funded by hotel magnate Stewart Bainum Jr., officially launched on Tuesday.

A sampling of the initial offerings, some of which are limited to subscribers: a writeup of a poll on how Baltimoreans would fix the city, a look at the persistent problem of vacant houses in Baltimore, and a feature on the "paradox of Francis Scott Key," writer of the "Star-Spangled Banner."

Although the Banner has published multiple stories through its email newsletter in the lead-up to today's launch, including the details of a legal feud between the sons of Orioles owner Peter Angelos, a full website did not go online until Tuesday.

The Banner currently has 42 journalists on staff and plans to have 70 by the end of the year, the company said in a news release.

Bainum and his family launched the Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism -- named for former Baltimore County Executive Ted Venetoulis, who worked as a news executive after politics -- to oversee operations of the Banner.

As he told WJZ's Denise Koch in November, Bainum committed $50 million to get the project off the ground.

Report: Stewart Bainum Jr. Plans To Launch 'The Baltimore Banner,' An All-Digital News Outlet by WJZ on YouTube

"We want to carry the banner of Baltimore's great tradition of journalism forward into the future," he said.

Bainum also has a background in politics, serving as a member of the Maryland General Assembly from 1979 to 1987. During that time, he recalled, there were six newspapers daily newspapers in the state. Now, there's a news vacuum.

"How can communities govern themselves when they don't know what's going on?" he asked.

Bainum and Venetoulis made an unsuccessful bid to buy The Sun and turn it into a nonprofit. Following Venetoulis' death in October, Bainum decided to move ahead with a new venture, and several veterans from the city's daily paper, such as Justin Fenton, Liz Bowie and Tim Prudente, eventually signed on to join the new outlet.

In a note posted on the Banner's site, editor in chief Kimi Yoshino said Tuesday the Banner will provide "insight, depth, analysis and solutions" in its coverage.

"We want to break news, but don't expect us to cover every shooting or incremental development at City Hall. We'll watchdog government agencies and elected officials when things aren't working right. We'll highlight success stories," she wrote. "We'll celebrate the rich culture and art in this region and provide useful information that helps you decide how to spend your time and money. And we'll find interesting tales that you'll want to talk about with family and friends."

Subscriptions cost $3.99 per week for a monthly plan or $2.99 per week for an annual plan.

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