Skip to main content
Merrill College

Capital News Service Publishes 'Baltimore's Backbone' Series On Small Businesses from Merrill's Baltimore Urban Affairs Reporting Course

COLLEGE PARK — Capital News Service, the student-powered news outlet operated by the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, this week released the series, “Baltimore's Backbone: How Small Businesses Sustain 'Smalltimore.'” The project was produced by the college's Spring 2024 Baltimore Urban Affairs Reporting class.

Baltimore's Backbone: Smalltimore graphicOver five months, eight CNS reporters met with more than 70 small business owners and staff across Baltimore to understand how they survive in the era of big box stores and online shopping.

The reporters developed a deeper understanding of how small businesses contribute to the social fabric of Baltimore, leading to eight articles describing Baltimore’s backbone, all published by CNS. The Baltimore Banner also published parts of the series.

The reporting began by examining research by Vojislav “Max” Maksimovic and Liu Yang from the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Maksimovic and Yang’s paper, "Seizing Opportunities: Small Businesses, Social Capital, and Banks," showed how small businesses with high social connections tend to thrive. As part of a University of Maryland Grand Challenges grant, Capital News Service journalists used this study as a departure point to examine small businesses in Baltimore.

In addition, The Banner provided guidance and support for the project. Banner Data Editor Ryan Little, a Merrill master's alum, reviewed story proposals and selected three articles to be published in The Banner. 

The Banner and CNS also hosted an outreach lunch in March to share preliminary findings with small businesses and get their feedback. The Greater Baltimore Black Chamber of Commerce co-sponsored the event. 

The project was led by Associate Professor Rob Wells. Merrill College staff members Josh Land and Kaitlyn Wilson provided additional editing of the series.

CNS Baltimore reporters on the 'Smalltimore' project:
CNS Baltimore reporters on the 'Smalltimore' project: Rear row: Auzinea Bacon, Robert Stewart, Miles Grovic. Middle row: Emily Condon, Sydney Klapman, Shaun Chornobroff, David Smith. Front row: Rob Wells, editor; Debra Keller-Greene, Greater Baltimore Black Chamber of Commerce, guest speaker. Not pictured: Bridget Lang.

Baltimore's Backbone: How Small Businesses Sustain 'Smalltimore'
By Emily Condon 

Influx of millions boosts hope for Mondawmin small businesses owners
By Shaun Chornobroff

Printing, Fighting, and Battle-Rapping: How Two Baltimore Businesses Owners Connect and Thrive
By Bridget Lang

Mothers of Baltimore: Local women try to overcome lack of child care
By Bridget Lang

Belair-Edison merchants aim to forge bonds, invigorate neighborhood
By Robert Stewart

Bakery reinvigorates Druid Heights with sweet rolls and art
By Auzinea Bacon and Miles Grovic

Nurturing health, mind and community in Belair-Edison
By Robert Stewart

One job just isn’t enough for serial entrepreneur Nailah Queen 
By Miles Grovic

About Capital News Service

Founded in 1990, Capital News Service is a nonprofit, student-powered news organization run by the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism. With offices and news teams in College Park, Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington, CNS' newsrooms are managed by full-time faculty members with distinguished careers as professional journalists. CNS provides deeply reported, award-winning coverage of issues that are important to Marylanders. 

CNS delivers news in multiple formats via partner news organizations, a destination website, an on-air and streaming television newscast, and affiliated social media channels. It provides breaking news coverage, in-depth investigative and enterprise journalism, visual storytelling opportunities, and serves as a laboratory for students to test and develop innovative methods of reporting and storytelling.

Back to Top