A Banner Year
Fighting to save journalism in a city fighting to save itself.
Project type: Nonfiction Feature
Project status: Production
Director/Producer: Josh Davidsburg
Producer/Cinematographer: Krishnan Vasudevan
Producer: Alanna Delfino
Producer: Gene Deems
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As vampiric hedge funds suck up and devour local newspapers across the country, a group of Baltimore journalists, backed by a billionaire philanthropist, band together to save local journalism in their city.
The Banner newsroom is buzzing. Reporters hover over each other’s desks, passing sources, FOIA suggestions and word choice back and forth. They’re reporting out stories, posting on social media and creating their beats, and starting a new newsroom from scratch. In a world of shrinking and dying newspapers, Fenton and his colleagues are trying to build something new.
The Banner is the pet project of a Baltimore Billionaire. In 2020, vampiric hedgefund Alden Capital put in a bid to buy Tribune, which owned the Baltimore Sun. Alden Capital buys papers, then lays off staff and sells the pieces off for parts. Bainum saw the importance of the Baltimore Sun and put in a bid to buy the paper. Tribune’s board rejected his bid, so Bainum decided to start his own, non-profit news organization in direct competition with Baltimore’s paper of record.
The Banner hired 50 reporters within months, moved into a permanent newsroom, launched in May, and premiered its app in October. Meanwhile, the reporters are digging deep and developing stories and sources. Watching their newsroom grow as the Baltimore Sun and other newsrooms are gutted.
The Banner says it’s trying to cover Baltimore differently. Editors plan to hire a more diverse staff than the Sun. They’ve also moved away from the quick crunch of traditional newspaper reporting and digs in, providing more data, context and color for the Banner’s stories.
The news organization has a tough road ahead in. The reporters and staff have to build trust with the community and grow a substantial subscriber base. No one in the world is doing what the Banner is doing, as a non-profit with its financial backing. News organizations across the country are looking at it as an example.
Meet the Filmmakers
Josh Davidsburg – Director/Producer
Josh Davidsburg is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His first feature-length documentary Queen of the Capital is screening at film festivals across the country. Josh also teaches documentary and broadcast journalism as a full-time lecturer at the University of Maryland, College Park, Philip Merrill College of Journalism. He is currently in production for his next two feature films.
Krishnan Vasudevan – Producer/Cinematographer
Krishnan Vasudevan is a filmmaker/scholar at the University of Maryland. His 2022 feature documentary, One Driver, One Mic was an official selection at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and the Chagrin Documentary Film Festival. Krishnan has published several academic articles and chapters on media, labor and design. Previously, as a multimedia journalist Krishnan has published work in the New York Times, Slate, ProPublica and several other reputable news publications. He is a 2021 Docs in Progress fellow, a 2015 recipient of an Austin Film Society Award and has received multiple national journalism awards alongside his collaborators for his contribution to the investigative project, Code Red.
Alanna Delfino – Producer
Alanna Delfino is a cinematographer, producer and full-time lecturer at UMD’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. She’s lead instructor for News Videography for undergraduate and graduate-level students.
Previously, Alanna was a multi-platform photojournalist and editor for Tegna’s National Verify team. She produced long-form and daily, data driven content for local news stations around the country. Prior to that, she was a photojournalist at Baltimore’s Fox 45, where she specialized in producing daily news, under deadline, with a creative storytelling approach.
Alanna’s work is nationally and locally recognized. She’s the National Press Photographer Association’s 2017 and 2018 East Top Photographer of the year and finalist for NPPA’s National Television News Photographer of the year. She’s earned 13 NATAS regional Emmy’s and CAPBA’s 2020 Outstanding News Photographer.
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