Boston black newspaper to take city loan to stay open

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

BOSTON — The publisher of Boston's only black-owned newspaper says he'll accept a $200,000 loan from the city to avert the shutdown of the financially struggling weekly.

Bay State Banner Publisher Mel Miller told The Boston Globe that “only a fool wouldn't take” the loan, which Mayor Thomas Menino offered earlier this week.

The loan will come from the Boston Local Development Corp., a private nonprofit administered by the city that provides cash to small businesses.

The 44-year-old Bay State Banner suspended publication this month, blaming a steep drop in advertising.

Kelly McBride, a journalism-ethics specialist at the Poynter Institute, said publications that take public money risk their reputations for impartiality and independence. But Miller says he's not compromising his newspaper's reputation.

Meanwhile, a deal to keep the Portland, Maine, daily newspaper's offices in the city is under discussion.

Richard Connor, new owner of the Portland Press Herald, is seeking a less-direct incentive from the city to prevent a move of the newspaper company’s base of operations to South Portland.

Connor told the Press Herald, “We’d like to stay in Portland, but we don’t want to get punished financially to stay in Portland.”

Connor is asking for tax breaks on office space or lowered rates for a city parking garage. According to, Portland city ordinances dictate that business incentives must be in the public’s interest. City officials have said they favor keeping the newspaper in the city to preserve jobs and tax revenue.

Mark Guerringue, an owner of the free local paper Portland Daily Sun, has expressed concern over the potential influence that financial aid could have on the Press Herald’s coverage of the city governance.

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