Fern Shen, a former Washington Post reporter, launched the Baltimore Brew, a local news website, three years ago to fill a void being created by declining coverage in metropolitan newspapers.
She said she started the website with the intent of keeping good local journalism alive, and to help serve the city she’s called home for the last 25 years.
“I really wanted to learn about my city as a resident not just a reporter,” Shen, a Roland Park resident, said during a telephone interview Friday morning.
But now the Baltimore Brew, which focuses on providing in-depth analysis and accountability reporting of local issues, as well as some arts coverage, has grown. The website had 41,000 unique readers and 98,000 pageviews in November, and it needs help in keeping the “hamster wheel” going and producing content, Shen said.
“It’s kind of like a family that has gotten too big for its row house,” Shen said.
So the website launched a fundraising campaign on Thursday through Kickstarter, a company that helps creative projects find donors to raise $15,000 in 45 days. By early Friday afternoon, the site had raised $2,041 from 41 backers.
Shen said the money will go toward hiring a part-time employee to help post and produce content for the website, which will allow the website to cover a broader range of subjects.
“I think that will help us have a more balanced, attractive package of content,” Shen said.
Baltimore Brew has been successul in building readership despite frequently veering from what’s considered the model for online news reporting--shorter, quick-hitting articles that don't tax a reader's attention span. However, in an age of 140-character posts on Twitter, constant blog updates and aggregation, the Baltimore Brew has found a niche in providing longer, in-depth articles.
Although Shen points out that she and associate editor and senior reporter Mark Reutter try to limit the pieces from becoming “treatises,” there has been a lot of positive feedback about the website's more comprehensive treatment of some stories. She said that it's often the second-to-last paragraph of a story that readers comment on or share via social media.
“I can tell you that people are happy we’re taking the time,” Shen said.