Case Study

How The Lenfest Institute advised Baltimore‘s new Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism

The Baltimore-based non-profit organization plans to launch The Baltimore Banner, a 50-person digital news organization.

By Hayley Slusser

October 27, 2021

An arrow-shaped reads "The Baltimore Banner." The National Aquarium in Baltimore is in the background.

Maryland businessman Stewart W. Bainum, Jr. on Tuesday announced the founding of The Venetoulis Institute for Local Journalism, a Baltimore-based non-profit organization supporting local news in Maryland. Next year, The Venetoulis Institute plans to launch The Baltimore Banner, a 50-person digital news organization. 

The Lenfest Institute for Journalism has served as a strategic advisor to Bainum and his team since November 2020, and The Lenfest Institute’s work has served as a model for the design and creation of The Venetoulis Institute. The Venetoulis Institute is also supported by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. 

“Wealthy, first-time owners are sometimes surprised by the business challenges of their new media ventures,” Lenfest Institute Executive Director & CEO Jim Friedlich told The Washington Post, which reported on The Venetoulis Institute’s launch. “Launching a successful new local news brand almost always takes longer than its founders hope or expect. [Bainum 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.”

Former Wall Street Journal executive Imtiaz Patel was named The Venetoulis Institute’s chief executive officer. Patel is a former Wall Street Journal executive, and he’s advised several news organizations, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, on their digital transformation and subscription growth. 

The Venetoulis Institute has also appointed Kimi Yoshino as editor-in-chief to lead The Baltimore Banner’s news coverage. Yoshino was most recently managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, where she has worked for 21 years. She was one of the editors who helped lead the Times’ investigation into corruption in the city of Bell, Calif., which won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2011. 

The Lenfest Institute will continue to provide advisory support to The Venetoulis Institute, sharing access to its news and technology resources, fundraising expertise, and digital subscription and membership playbooks.

As the parent organization of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Spotlight PA, The Lenfest Institute is committed to supporting and building models to ensure sustainable local journalism that meet the news and information needs of the diverse communities throughout the Philadelphia-area and Pennsylvania. 

Through its strategic advisory work, The Lenfest Institute shares its business expertise with news organizations and entrepreneurs across the country. 

In addition to its partnership with The Venetoulis Institute, The Lenfest Institute recently counseled Chicago Public Media, which announced last month its plans to acquire the Chicago Sun-Times. The merger would create what it described as “one of the largest local non-profit news organizations in the nation and be a national model for the future of local journalism.” 

The Institute has also publicly advocated for the Local Journalism Sustainability Act, a bill pending before Congress that would provide various tax credits to help financially support newsrooms while ensuring they retain editorial independence. 

This article first appeared in The Lenfest Institute’s newsletter. Subscribe here to get it delivered to your inbox.

Local News Solutions

The Lenfest Institute provides free tools and resources for local journalism leaders to develop sustainable strategies to serve their communities.

Find Your News Solution
news solution pattern