Recollections of two decades in print

Written by on June 6, 2012 in Baltimore Voices, Blogs - 1 Comment

This is my last week as editor of The Baltimore Guide, a job that I have held, and loved, for more than 20 years.

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And my, how things have changed. I had the very great privilege to report on some of those changes. For instance:

Twenty years ago, “no one [went] to Patterson Park because only junkies and criminals go there” —at least, that’s what people said in countless public meetings.

That certainly has changed! Most of the credit goes to the Friends of Patterson Park for the thousands of unpaid hours its volunteers have spent in the park over the years. And then there’s Sidney Brower, a public planning professor at the University of Maryland, who, with his class of graduate students and the Friends, helped organize the community to make a master plan for the park and demand money from the city for repairs and renovations.

It was my privilege to report on this great effort and to serve on the master plan committee. It was nothing less than the rescue of the park and its surrounding neighborhoods, and it was exciting.

Twenty years ago, the Highlandtown branch library was tiny, cramped and didn’t have much to offer because of the space available. But people loved it and they used it. It had the second-most circulation per square foot in the entire Pratt Library system, behind Roland Park. And when Pratt CEO Carla Hayden announced her plan for regional libraries added to the Pratt’s extensive network of small branches, we at The Guide lobbied to have the first (and so far, the only) regional library in Southeast.

Today, the Southeast Anchor Library attracts nearly 500,000 visitors a year to Highlandtown’s struggling business district. It was my privilege to report on the planning and construction of that library and to serve on the community advisory committee.

Also, 20 years ago the City of Baltimore planned to close eight branch libraries, among them the Canton Branch, the historic first branch of the system. The community managed to head off the closing of the Canton Branch. It is presently undergoing more than $1.3 million in renovations, a roof-to-basement project that will preserve the building’s historic flavor while providing access to disabled people. There will be more room available for children’s and adult collections. Many thanks to the Friends of the Canton Branch and the Canton Community Association for their hard work over more than a decade toward this renovation.

In the community, the Guide has helped spotlight crime and even capture suspects. The Guide’s Crimestoppers feature at one point helped the Southeastern District’s Warrant Apprehension Squad achieve a 92 percent capture rate. More than once, a suspect saw his picture in the paper and went to the station house to turn himself in. Among the suspects this feature helped take off the streets were two murderers, both convicted; two rapists, ditto; and a whole slew of car larcenists, burglars, muggers and street fighters.

The Guide also helped clean up prostitution around the park in a cooperative operation with the Southeastern District. We printed the names of both prostitutes and johns arrested in the district, a move that led to a huge drop in activity.

Unfortunately, the vice squad is citywide now, and it is impossible for us to tell which people were arrested where. Even so, the prostitution problem around the park is not nearly as bad as it once was, and here’s hoping we never return to those days.

We entered into a cooperative arrangement with the Bureau of Animal Control and the Maryland SPCA to discourage dogfighting in our neighborhoods Fighting-dog owners were capturing pet cats to use to “blood” their dogs. While our effort did not end dogfighting, we did manage to drive it back underground and out of Patterson Park.

While reporting on the crime and other not-so-nice aspects of city living, we always tried to report on the positive—festivals, water ballets, church suppers, neighborhood efforts like cleanups and COP walks, free Bach concerts and more.

The new editor is Eric Zygmont. To contact him, email or phone 410-732-6603. Please be as kind to him as you have always been to me.

It has been my great privilege to work for our communities and readers. I am hoping to stay active in community work. To all of you, thank you for bringing us into your homes every week. Thanks for reading, thanks for talking, thanks for your feedback, thanks for your support. I shall miss all of you.

by Jacqueline Watts

One Comment on "Recollections of two decades in print"

  1. Ann Schenk June 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm · Reply

    Bummer. Gonna miss you too!
    Thank YOU for all you have done this past score of years — including unknowingly getting me and my husband of 11 years, Michael, together via a story about him in the Guide 12 years ago.
    You have done more to help the area than all the politicians we have had during your time. I certainly hope your departure is an amicable one. Otherwise I’d have to put on my stomping boots and give someone a good old East Baltimore talking to! ;-)

    Wishing you all the best in your new endeavors,
    Ann S.

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