The article below originally appeared on Poynter on February 10, 2022. The full article can be found here.

Just over a year and a half ago, Maryland businessman and philanthropist Stewart Bainum Jr. was overseeing his family’s Choice Hotels, a newer group of care facilities for dementia patients and other family investments.

He and his brother, through two of several family foundations, were focused on venture philanthropy in sub-Saharan Africa. “We like investing where the upside is huge but no one else is interested because of the risk,” he told me in a Zoom interview.

Then, in the fall of 2020, Bainum struck out in a new direction. As has been well chronicled, he tried first to buy The Baltimore Sun and then to cobble together a group to bid on all of Tribune Publishing, owner of the Sun and eight other metro newspapers. When blocked by hedge fund Alden Global Capital on both of those efforts, he switched to a plan to launch a full-service, nonprofit digital newspaper for Baltimore.

Talk about high-risk, high-reward. As his Baltimore Banner is staffing up and taking shape this spring for a second-quarter launch, Bainum said, “I am prepared to give or raise $50 million over three-and-a-half years.” The city remains home to the 185-year-old Baltimore Sun, now Alden-owned. Coming soon will be a test of whether Baltimore and its suburbs are big enough for both.

Bainum explained his late-blooming affinity for the news business this way:

“I served in the Maryland general assembly from 1979 to 1987. Back then there were six vibrant newspapers covering the sessions, including the Capital Gazette. Now there are two — the Sun and The Washington Post — and they have a couple of reporters each.

“(As a legislator), I saw all sorts of shenanigans. Not all of them got reported, but a lot more then than now.”

Besides, he reflected, he probably still had “a public service itch to scratch.”

The Banner (named in honor of the national anthem’s Baltimore roots) has had its leadership team in place for months. Consultant Imtiaz Patel serves as CEO and publisher and Kimi Yoshino, a former managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, as editor. Bainum is the chairman of a newly chartered nonprofit, the Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism.

None of the three executives is from Baltimore. Nor, in a minority-majority city, are any of them Black. Patel and Bainum told me they have been deliberate about building racial balance into the first wave of 10 business hires.

As of Feb. 4, 10 editors and reporters have also been hired. The target is 35 to 40 for the launch and roughly 60 by the end of 2023, comparable to the Sun’s staffing. (We intend to report on the creation of the Banner’s newsroom staff in a subsequent story.)

Patel has been a behind-the-scenes player in the newspaper game for many years. He left a consulting gig helping Gannett and GateHouse integrate their operations post-merger to advise Bainum each step of the way.

“My career has been in strategic turnarounds,” Patel told me, often in retail as well as in newspapers. He was recruited as a vice president for strategy by The Wall Street Journal in the mid-2000s, a seven-year run both before and after Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. bought the paper and its parent Dow Jones in 2007.

Patel brings a crisp, analytical approach to the challenges of launching the Banner. He and Bainum have settled on the somewhat paradoxical strategy of front-loading spending for a fast start but also expecting that a patient trajectory with mid-course corrections will be needed to bring the venture off.

Their horizon is seven to 10 years, Patel said. “We’re thinking long-term — almost generational.”

The startup will rely on Bainum’s and other philanthropic support at first, but not indefinitely. “We plan to settle down to 15% of revenue from philanthropy,” Patel said. After an introductory period, the site will go paid, and the target is 50% or more audience revenue.

“To make this whole thing work,” Patel said, “the key will be subscriptions and having something worth paying for. Otherwise why are you here? So 2022 will be about seeing what works, what content resonates.”

That creates a double challenge. First will be building awareness with potential subscribers. Then the Banner needs to face getting its journalism in front of marginalized communities, some of whose members will not be able to afford a subscription.

A preliminary idea is to put certain stories in front of the paywall, but Patel said that the plan will need further refining.

The Banner won’t be able to cover everything right away, Patel and Yoshino have concluded. Some beats and some more distant geography will need to wait until later.

Patel has quickly put in place key vendors — The Washington Post’s Arc content management system, Piano for digital subscription payments and strategy, and Parsley for analytics.

The Banner and its parent nonprofit also have leased 15,000 square feet of office space in Baltimore’s showcase Inner Harbor neighborhood.

A view of Inner Harbor area in Baltimore. The Baltimore Banner has leased space at 621 E. Pratt St.

I asked whether the Banner would have an e-edition with a more traditional newspaper layout for those who prefer that presentation. No, Patel said. “It’s a very traditional product and not where we want to go.”

That suggests to me that the Sun, with seven days of print at present and an established e-edition, may stay popular with older readers, as the Banner becomes the choice of a younger demographic for whom print has no attraction.

About half of the first group of editorial hires were Sun refugees, but there won’t be room for all who want to get onboard the startup. “We’re trying to be careful,” Patel said. “We don’t want to reinvent the Sun.”

Patel is stepping out of his comfort zone in consulting as he assumes the CEO/publisher role. “Stewart is a great guy,” Patel said. “He is so sincere in why he is doing this. It’s probably the reason I signed up.”

I took away the same impression from my talk with Bainum — my first in the 15 months I have covered each chapter of his takeover fight with Alden. For a guy worth hundreds of millions, he was low-key, open and curious.

Near the end of our hourlong interview, he asked about the size of the budget and staff at Poynter and our relationship to the Tampa Bay Times. He also wanted to know who else he might reach out to besides The Daily Memphian and The Lenfest Institute in Philadelphia, which have served as models.

For Bainum and his siblings, philanthropy is pretty close to being in their blood. Their father put together one of the first private family foundations in the 1960s when the form was new. “I was in the room as a college student when some of the papers were being drawn up.”

At 75, Bainum belongs to a growing segment of the very rich, equally interested in distributing their fortune to worthwhile causes while still tending to business. He and his wife have signed the Giving Pledge, committing to donating half their net worth.

Bainum expects to have an office at the Banner, but does not plan to move from his lifelong home base in Washington, D.C.’s Maryland suburbs. “I still have a day job here,” he said.

He does not aim to be a hands-on executive on operations or to have any input on editorial matters. (As a nonprofit, the Banner cannot endorse candidates and stay within its tax status.) Bainum has, however, chosen to be more actively involved during the launch phase. He said that he spent 15 hours talking with Yoshino and another finalist for the editor position and had talked with a half dozen other candidates.

On his to-do list is finishing appointments to a board that will run the parent nonprofit, the Venetoulis Institute, named for former Baltimore County executive Ted Venetoulis, who died suddenly last fall. Venetoulis had been trying for more than a decade to put together a group to buy the Sun or, more recently, to create an alternative.

Bainum has a settled idea of what is critical for a startup. “I’ve done several, and some have failed,” he said. One key is to make small mistakes at the start, learn from them and alter accordingly.

“I have been trying to understand organizations and what makes them successful,” he said, “and I have come up with three things. … First, what’s the vision? Is it compelling and exciting enough” to attract customers and staff?

“Second, you have to focus on (leadership) talent because you’re going to live with those choices for a long period of time. Then you need to look at corporate culture — what is it going to be and how do you build that.”

I asked whether Baltimore — with a reputation for poverty, crime and corruption — was a big enough market to support the Banner and the Sun.

That’s to be determined, Bainum said, but the wider metropolitan area includes some deep pocket residents. “There are challenges but also opportunities.”

I also checked in, as Bainum and Patel have, with Eric Barnes, founder of The Daily Memphian, a 3-and-a-half-year-old digital startup competing with Gannett’s Commercial Appeal in Tennessee. Progress has been gradual but steady, Barnes said. “We’re up to 16,000 paid subscriptions and after some hiring this year, we will be at 40 positions.”

What advice does he give Bainum and others contemplating a metro startup? “Get big fast,” he said, for an immediate presence. That should include hiring away some high-profile veterans from the competition.

I also was curious about the impact the Banner is having on the Sun. Editor-in-chief and publisher Trif Alatzas commented by email:

“Competition is good for the industry and for the public, pushing us to do our best work and to provide coverage you can’t get anywhere else, and we wish all our competitors well — the newcomers and the established entities.

We have a terrific group of journalists who take great pride in what we do as the largest and oldest news gathering operation in the region. … We have hired several skilled reporters and editors during the past few months and we’re hearing from more people around the country who want to join us given The Sun’s track record of producing award-winning journalism in the public interest.”

NewsGuild chapter steward Lily Reed told me the Alden takeover and Banner startup have been “a mixed bag” — by no means all negative.

Morale was low when Alden won its bid for Tribune’s papers, she said, “but management is hiring now for vacancies, so that’s good news.” There is no animosity between the Sun’s newsroom and the new one at the Banner, she added, but it’s hard to see former colleagues, some who were senior mentors to younger reporters, suddenly turned competitors.

As for Bainum and Patel, their ambitions don’t stop at the Maryland state line. They hope that their model, even if it evolves to something different from the plans at launch, can encourage more of the same kind of ambitious new ventures in other metros where local journalism has become undernourished.

This article was originally published on Poynter. by Rick Edmonds. Find the full Baltimore Business Journal article here.

The interview below originally aired on WJZ’s Eyewitness News Evening on November 15, 2021.

Bainum, chairman of Choice Hotels International, told the magazine the organization will start with an annual operating budget of $15 million and a staff of 50 journalists.

Watch the full interview here.

The article below originally appeared in the Baltimore Business Journal on November 9, 2021. The full article can be found here.

The Baltimore Banner is on the hunt for office space in the central business district as the local news startup funded by the Chairman of Choice Hotels International, Stewart Bainum Jr., looks to launch by June.

The organization, fueled by $50 million in seed money from Bainum, is searching for 15,000 square feet of space, preferably in an “iconic building,” with the option for 10,000 square feet as the business grows, said Imtiaz Patel, CEO of The Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism, the nonprofit organization behind the news startup. The move to more permanent digs will eventually bring about 100 new jobs downtown and will also plant the online-only Banner firmly on the city’s radar, Patel said during a wide-ranging interview with the Baltimore Business Journal.

The mission to start a news organization from scratch is a tall order born out of Bainum’s losing bid to acquire The Sun. The launch of the Banner comes at a time when local news in Baltimore and nationally has been shredded by layoffs, closures and drastic cost- cutting measures — including at the Banner’s soon-to-be rival publication, the hometown newspaper The Baltimore Sun.

Patel and Bainum are forming a growing team to create a new kind of journalism business model. Joining them next month will be Los Angeles Times Managing Editor Kimi Yoshino, who was hired to run the newsroom as well as four executives who will focus on marketing, technology, product strategy and workplace culture. Together, they will help dictate how to sell and price advertising and subscription rates, build the new platform for news delivery along with other nontraditional storytelling methods, hire up to 50 journalists in the first year, and seek advice and alliances with other nonprofit foundations. The budget for the first year will be $15 million.

It’s no small task, Patel said, and the overarching mission will be to move the model statewide in about five years.

“In the end, it’s all about the readers,” he said. “Our initial goal is to cover Baltimore and its surrounding counties. Of course, we will cover the statehouse and the Maryland delegation in Washington, D.C., because that will have an impact on the Baltimore region. The challenge now is building out the team.”

Patel, 54, detailed the early work to set up The Baltimore Banner from the conference room at Spark, the coworking space at Power Plant Live, where the startup is currently housed. In his words, it is part hard-knuckle strategy mixed with an esoteric moving target and almost new-age approach to journalism. Below are some of his thoughts about forming a model nonprofit local news operation in a town that once had three big-league and legacy newspapers, haunted still by the ghost of H.L. Mencken.

On subscriptions:

“We have some general model figured out. The way we think about it is 50%-60% of the money will come from subscriptions, 20-ish percent from advertising and some from contributions as a nonprofit and we think of that as revenue dollars. The balance will be from other ways to monetize our product. We’re modeling all of this stuff now and we will test everything and figure out what works. The reality is what will the reader pay. The number we have in mind is gaining about 100,000 subscriptions within four years, and the actual price of those subscriptions is something we really haven’t worked out.”

On how quickly The Banner will ramp up its news coverage:

“It’s a digital site, and there will be content going up as it’s written. We’re trying to work out if it is 24/7 or whatever. The timeline right now we’re going to launch somewhere around Q2 and that’s predicated on two things: one is Kimi starting and building out a newsroom. We really want to make sure that when we do go to market with a product, it’s a really great product. It’s going to be deep and the second is building out the technology. We’ve got to design and build the technology and look at different content management systems and have to sign an implementation partner and that will take a few months as well.”

On the publication’s approach to local news coverage:

“We are going to be a local news source, which means we won’t necessarily cover national or international news, unless it pertains to our coverage of Baltimore. Our initial goal is to cover Baltimore and surrounding counties and the eventual goal is to be statewide, we will cover statehouse and Maryland delegation in D.C. because that will have an impact on the Baltimore region. Our initial plan is to have roughly 50 in the newsroom but the specific number will be defined by coverage areas and the number of people in each area. The goal is to grow the newsroom to somewhere north of 100 people and it will probably take some time to get there; as we grow our coverage and subscriptions, we’ll add people.”

On the role content plays in driving the venture:

“We have a hypothesis about what we’re doing and how it will work. We’ve done research about what do consumers want in this specific marketplace, what are they willing to pay for and what are they lacking from other sources? Then we’re pulling in people from the industry and getting their input as well, and then when you think about a framework, what is the content that supports our mission in having accountability journalism and an impact? That stuff is really important, but how do you balance that with content that will drive traffic so we can monetize that traffic, and will it also drive subscriptions? You’ve got to think about it from all those different things. No one area of content serves every need. There’s some things we have to do: we’ve got to cover City Hall, have to cover sports and got to cover the State House, education, criminal

justice, and a food column that I want to write, but I have to have time for it. We’re creating our own local platform on a scale that no one is trying to do. It’s a little bit let’s build it, see what happens, and be willing to change a little bit depending on what our readers want. At the end of the day, it’s about our readers.”

On building an online-only local news source:

“What you’ve got is a bit of give and take. We don’t have to worry about the legacy issues like printing a product and the issues associated with that. We can really think about what is it that the newsroom of the future needs to be. The future means, how do we build content that resonates with people? That could be Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and next year something new and we have to figure out how we leverage all these channels. There are so many different ways to get your news and if we’re really going after our audience we have to think about how to serve them in different ways; we can’t lock ourselves into one thing. The website is great right now, but maybe five to 10 years from now, people won’t go to a desktop at all. It will go the ways of print. We have to be agile.”

On what makes Baltimore the right place for this nonprofit local news opportunity:

“There’s a lot of different communities in the city, all with their stories and lots happening. It’s a great microcosm of an urban city and the issues facing cities. In a way, it’s Smalltimore, in a way it’s a very national thing. So I really believe there are stories here we can tell that the nation will care about.”

On interest from potential employees as the newsroom looks to hire 50 journalists:

“People want jobs.”

This article was originally published in the Baltimore Business Journal by Melody Simmons. Find the full Baltimore Business Journal article here.

The interview below originally aired on WYPR’s Midday show on November 4, 2021.

Tom’s next guest is Stewart Bainum. He is a successful businessman (as board chair of the worldwide Choice Hotels chain), philanthropist, and former Maryland delegate and senator. Last year, he tried to buy the Baltimore Sun with the intention of turning it into a non-profit news organization focusing on local news. That effort was rebuffed by the Sun’s owners, a hedge fund called Alden Global Capital. Working with former Baltimore County Executive Ted Venetoulis, Bainum began planning a new local news operation, an on-line, multi-pronged platform that will be overseen by the Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism, a not-for-profit foundation named in honor of Mr. Venetoulis, who passed away last month from pancreatic cancer.

Listen to the full interview here.

The podcast below originally aired on CNN’s Reliable Sources on October 29, 2021. The full podcast can be found here.

Listen to the full podcast here.

The video originally appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources on October 31, 2021. The full video can be found here.

Brian Stelter talks to Maryland businessman Stewart Bainum about plans for The Baltimore Banner, a subscription-based nonprofit news site that intends to launch in 2022. Without strong local news coverage, Bainum says, “it’s difficult for people on this side of town to know what the stories are on the other side of town.”

Chief Marketing Officer, Head of Technology, Chief Product Officer and Head of People, Culture and Diversity to focus on mission of bringing locally owned journalism to the Baltimore region

BALTIMORE, MD (October 28, 2021) – The Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism, a Baltimore based nonprofit organization focused on delivering high-quality local journalism to the Baltimore metro, recently announced the appointment of four industry veterans: Chief Marketing Officer Klas Uden, Chief Product Officer Shameel Arafin, Head of Technology Earl Cokley, and Andre Jones as Head of People, Culture and Diversity. These executives, along with Chief Executive Officer Imtiaz Patel, have extensive backgrounds in marketing, platform development, people, and subscription growth, and they play a critical role in The Institute’s mission to bring locally owned journalism to the region.

Klas Uden
Earl Cockley
Shameel Arafin
Andre Jones

As Chief Marketing Officer, Klas Uden will lead marketing strategy and digital subscription growth at The Institute. Uden brings over 15 years of consumer marketing leadership, including eight years with Dow Jones where he oversaw digital subscription growth for Uden will be responsible for directing and executing strategies across all platforms, including The Baltimore Banner when it launches next year, to create connections with readers in the greater Baltimore area.

As Chief Product Officer, Shameel Arafin will lead product strategy and operations across all products and platforms. Most recently, Arafin served as Vice President of Product at Fortune Media where he oversaw editorial, conference, video, and subscription products, and launched the new verticals Fortune Connect and Fortune Education. Earlier in his career, Arafin held engineering leadership roles at Time Inc. and Meredith Corp.

As Head of Technology, Earl Cokley will lead strategy for technology platforms and manage the implementation of technology systems and processes. Cokley brings experience from Scripps Network where he led software development, business intelligence, and project management. While at, Cokley led the development of a subscription-based e-commerce platform.

As Head of People, Culture and Diversity, Andre Jones will lead workplace culture strategies with a focus on talent development and inclusive culture processes. Jones brings experience from Jellyfish where he led diversity and learning initiatives, and J.J. Haines where Jones was responsible for human resources and talent development strategies.

“Klas, Shameel, Earl, and Andre bring a wealth of experience and the expertise necessary to build the kind of diverse news organization that the Baltimore community needs and wants,” says Imtiaz Patel, CEO at The Venetoulis Institute. “We are building an organization with media and tech talent from diverse backgrounds, and we are looking for people who have a passion for our mission, and who value personal growth and a sense of community.”

The Venetoulis Institute is currently hiring for several business and newsroom positions in Baltimore. To learn more about open positions, visit


About The Venetoulis Institute: A nonprofit local news organization dedicated to strengthening, uniting, and inspiring the greater Baltimore community.

Rick Abbruzzese

The article below originally appeared in The Washington Post on October 26, 2021. The full article can be found here.

The Maryland hotel magnate tried but failed to buy the Baltimore Sun. Now he’s trying to demonstrate a new business model for local news.

Stewart Bainum was a novice to the news business when his name first emerged earlier this year as a would-be savior.

The Maryland hotel magnate made a bold bid to buy the Baltimore Sun and its parent, Tribune Publishing, in what he described as a mission to restore local ownership and keep the newspapers out of the hands of a hedge fund with a history of stringent cost-cutting at its media properties.

Bainum’s months-long effort fell short — but he ended it, he said at the time, with a renewed conviction “that a better model for local news is both possible and necessary.”

Now he’s putting that belief to the test. Bainum has hired Kimi Yoshino, a top editor from the Los Angeles Times, to help him launch the Baltimore Banner, a nonprofit digital upstart dedicated to local coverage of the city, and committed $50 million of his own fortune to get it started.

The plan, Bainum said, is not to compete with the Sun but to cover the news in a city that he said has more than enough for one outlet. “Those reporters have their hands tied behind their back, and they’re still doing a good job,” he said, noting the Sun won a Pulitzer in 2020 for investigating corruption in the mayor’s office. “There’s a lot of damn talent there. And we just want to add to it.”

Yoshino, a California native who has spent 21 years at the Times and is currently one of its managing editors, told The Washington Post it took “something very special to make me leave two places that I love.” The Times endured some of the same budget cuts that have afflicted the Sun during the years that it, too, was owned by Tribune before finding a measure of stability under the new ownership of billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong.

“I’ve lived through — and survived — bad newspaper ownership and a bad boss,” she said. “The L.A. Times still has work to do on its path toward sustainability, but it’s absolutely headed in the right direction … I can’t think of a more important challenge right now than figuring out a way to make local journalism sustainable.”

The Banner name is a reference to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” written by Francis Scott Key in Baltimore after the British unsuccessfully attempted to penetrate the city’s Fort McHenry in the War of 1812.

The lofty name comes with a lofty budget: $15 million for its first year, with a plan to hire roughly 50 reporters. But Bainum says it will be essential that the Banner find outside revenue to support it beyond his initial investment. He said he expects the publication will be able to draw from subscriptions, a limited amount of advertising, philanthropic donations and, eventually, fees from events or e-commerce.

Yoshino said that while she hasn’t determined specific beats yet, she expects the Banner will cover city hall, education, criminal justice and inequality in addition to providing more “service” coverage. The Banner will also cover sports, culture and food.

Throughout the process of conceiving the Banner and selecting an editor, Bainum and his key deputy, Wall Street Journal veteran Imtiaz Patel, consulted widely with news leaders across the country, including those at digital start-ups such as Denver’s Colorado Sun and Memphis’s Daily Memphian, as well as nonprofit journalism leaders at the Texas Tribune and ProPublica to explore different journalism models.

Patel, who will serve as CEO and publisher of the Banner, stressed that the organization has focused first on building its business operation — his earliest hires were in areas like marketing, subscriptions and technology — so the journalists have a strong commercial institution to step into. Many other media start-ups, he said, are “a bunch of journalists trying to figure out what to do with subscriptions.”

The Banner is also receiving support from the nonprofit Lenfest Institute for Journalism, which owns the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“Wealthy, first-time owners are sometimes surprised by the business challenges of their new media ventures,” said Jim Friedlich, Lenfest’s executive director and CEO. “Launching a successful new local news brand almost always takes longer than its founders hope or expect.” Bainum, by contrast, has his “eyes wide open. He has been studying the challenges facing local news for several years now and is committed to invest meaningfully and patiently.”

Bainum will be chairman of the board. The Banner will exist under the umbrella of the nonprofit Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism, named for Bainum’s old friend and former Baltimore county executive Ted Venetoulis.

Venetoulis had first approached Bainum about launching a digital news operation in 2015, and Bainum turned him down. But when Venetoulis tried again in 2020, Bainum was more receptive, and their discussion launched the months-long effort to buy the Sun from Tribune, and eventually to try to keep Tribune out of the hands of Alden Global Capital.

Venetoulis died suddenly this month just as Bainum was preparing to announce his new nonprofit, prompting Bainum to name it in his honor.

Bainum’s other boosters include David Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter who created the HBO hit “The Wire.” Simon has committed to write a monthly column for the Banner. Billionaire publisher and former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg has also offered guidance and expertise.

“The talented team Stewart is assembling reflects his deep commitment to Baltimore, and I’m looking forward to reading their work — and seeing the positive impact they will have on the life of the city,” Bloomberg said in a statement.

Bloomberg has not committed to donating funds to the institute, according to Patel, but that is partly because “we haven’t asked.”

Among the media leaders Bainum and Patel conferred with was Norm Pearlstine, former top editor of the Los Angeles Times, who recommended Yoshino, according to Bainum: “He was very high on her.”

Yoshino was among the pool of candidates considered to replace Pearlstine, a position that went earlier this year to Kevin Merida, formerly of The Washington Post and ESPN’s the Undefeated.

Yoshino first talked to Bainum over Zoom one Saturday in September. The call was scheduled to be one hour; the two talked for nearly three, Bainum said. He interviewed eight or nine candidates for the role, whittled down from an initial list of nearly 150 people. “She was our first choice the whole time,” he said.

She said she was drawn to the opportunity because Baltimore “is such a dynamic place facing so many challenges, and I think our journalism can really help improve the community.” And “Stewart is so committed to trying to figure this out.”

Still, Yoshino said she “has a lot to learn” about Baltimore and plans to start her new role in December by researching the city and hiring a team. There is no launch date for the publication, but rather an initial goal to start publishing in the first half of the year.

The Banner is targeting a goal of 100,000 subscribers to break even; the greater Baltimore region has a population of about 2.5 million.

“We haven’t sold one subscription,” Bainum said. “And nobody knows our brand. So that’s the task a start-up has. It’s going to be a challenge.”

He recalled his years in the Maryland General Assembly in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, when there were six major papers on the State House beat; Maureen Dowd, now a Pulitzer-winning New York Times columnist, was a cub reporter for the now-defunct Washington Star.

“There was always someone in local government being incarcerated back then,” Bainum said, bemoaning the shortage of attention on such state and local government today. “Who knows what shenanigans are going on now?”

This article was originally published on by Sarah Ellison. Find the full Washington Post article here.

The interview below originally aired on WYPR’s On The Record show on October 27, 2021.

When The Baltimore Banner launches next year, its plan is to cover news of the Baltimore region intensely. Stewart Bainum Jr., the millionaire force behind it, just hired a top editor from The Los Angeles Times to lead the reportingand says he expects her to take risks, “If we’re not willing to experiment and be willing to fail different experiments, this won’t succeed because there’s no map for making a local digital online news site financially stable and sustainable. ‘The Banner will be owned by a nonprofit. Bainum says it won’t succeed unless it produces news that subscribers are willing to pay to read. His goal is not making The Baltimore Sun extinct, he says, but keeping public leaders accountable and citizens informed.

Listen to the full interview here.

Stewart Bainum, Jr. launches nonprofit news organization with support from The Lenfest Institute for Journalism

Imtiaz Patel to serve as Chief Executive Officer, Kimi Yoshino tapped as Editor in Chief

BALTIMORE, MD (October 26, 2021) — Maryland businessman Stewart Bainum, Jr. and his family, today announced the founding of The Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism, a Baltimore based nonprofit organization. The Institute is preparing to launch The Baltimore Banner, a new digital news enterprise serving Baltimore’s diverse communities. The Banner is expected to launch next year with nearly 50 journalists to bring high-quality journalism to the Baltimore region.

The Institute, which was founded with strategic support from the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, is named in honor of former Baltimore County Executive Theodore “Ted” G. Venetoulis. A statesman, community leader and business executive, Venetoulis was committed to saving local news through nonprofit ownership and led the fight to save the Baltimore Sun from being acquired by an out-of-state hedge fund. The Institute will establish a more sustainable model for locally owned, nonprofit news. The Institute’s mission is to expand local news coverage in the Baltimore region and become an indispensable resource that strengthens, unites, and inspires the Baltimore community through unbiased, quality journalism.

“Since the beginning, we’ve been focused on bringing unbiased, locally owned news to the Baltimore community to hold our leaders accountable and report on the varied stories of our region and our times,” said Stewart Bainum, Jr., Chairman of The Venetoulis Institute.

“The talented team Stewart is assembling reflects his deep commitment to Baltimore, and I’m looking forward to reading their work— and seeing the positive impact they will have on the life of the city,” said Michael R. Bloomberg.

The Institute has appointed Chief Executive Officer, Imtiaz Patel to build the infrastructure necessary to accommodate a growing digital newsroom in Baltimore’s Downtown Business District and lead business operations. Patel is a former executive with Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal where he led circulation strategy during a time of rapid growth in digital subscriptions and served as general manager of key business verticals. Most recently, Patel advised several news organizations on their digital growth and transformation, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, Gannett and USA Today.

Kimi Yoshino has been named Editor-in-Chief and will run all news coverage and content for The Baltimore Banner. Yoshino joins the Institute from the Los Angeles Times, where she has worked for 21 years, first as a reporter and later in several leadership positions across the newsroom, including most recently as Managing Editor. During her time there, Yoshino also served as Business Editor where she oversaw #MeToo investigative stories and helped lead coverage of corruption in the city of Bell—which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize gold medal for public service. Prior to joining The Times, she was a reporter at two California local newspapers, The Fresno Bee and The Stockton Record.

“We are pleased to have Imtiaz and Kimi lead our team at The Venetoulis Institute and The Baltimore Banner. Their collective experience and expertise will be instrumental in building a diverse newsroom capable of reporting daily news, investigative journalism, and lifestyle and sports content that Baltimoreans care deeply about,” stated Bainum. “Our success will be measured by the quality of our journalism, the service that we provide to the community, and the partners and subscribers willing to support local news.”

“Our goal is to become the leading provider of local news and lifestyle content in the region, spanning multiple media platforms,” said Patel. “For The Venetoulis Institute to be successful, it will take partnerships and support from likeminded organizations and the public. We look forward to delivering local news that the public values and our readers are willing to support.”

“I am excited to return to my roots in local journalism,” said Yoshino. “It is critically important to Baltimore — and to cities around the country — that we develop a successful model for sustainable local news. With Stewart’s commitment, I believe we have a shot at figuring this out. I can’t wait to start building this newsroom.”

To become a self-sustaining nonprofit enterprise over time, The Institute and its flagship digital publication, The Baltimore Banner, will grow support from paying subscribers and donations, both individual and institutional. All contributions will be tax deductible.

“We are excited to serve as a supporter and strategic resource as The Baltimore Banner and The Venetoulis Institute bring sustainable, community-supported public-service journalism to the Baltimore region,” said Jim Friedlich, Chief Executive of The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. The Lenfest Institute has served as an advisor to Stewart and his team since November of last year and as a model for the creation of The Venetoulis Institute.

The Venetoulis Institute is currently hiring for both newsroom and business positions. To learn more about The Institute’s open positions, visit


About The Venetoulis Institute: A nonprofit local news organization dedicated to strengthening, uniting, and inspiring the greater Baltimore community.

Rick Abbruzzese

Stay Connected

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive the latest updates about our mission.

Success! You're on the list.

Share Your Ideas

Do you have suggestions for how we can better serve the local community? We want your input! Send us a note at: