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Charles Ogeltree forms investor group to rescue Bay State Banner
Meghan E. Irons
Boston Globe (July 16, 2009) Bay State Banner publisher Mel Miller publicly hoped
last week that an investor would save Boston's only black newspaper from
closing. Now, it appears he may get his wish.
In an interview with the Globe yesterday, Harvard University law
professor Charles J. Ogletree (above) said he has lined up a group of 12
investors - individuals and organizations - who can provide enough money
to keep the financially-strapped weekly from shutting down permanently.
He said the Banner, which distributed its last edition on Thursday and
had been expected to close by the end of the month, could return to the
stands as early as next week.
"The Bay State Banner has been around for 44 years, and it will be
around for a 45th year and beyond that,'' Ogletree said, adding that he
has been working "around the clock'' to generate political and economic
support for the paper since news of its demise last week. "The reality
is, in these economic times, the Bay State Banner is more significant
than it ever was.''
Ogletree would not give details on how much money the investors have
promised. He also would not disclose information about the investors
themselves, except to say that they come from across the nation and
include former Harvard students and individuals and groups representing
clergy, government, and business and community advocacy.
Meanwhile, Miller said he is encouraged by the news, but thinks it is
likely to take longer than a week before the paper can print again.
Miller, who would not give details on how much it would take to the save
the paper, said that he's surprised - and touched - by the outpouring of
support he has seen since the announcement that the paper would shutter.
"I've never seen the community so upbeat, so militant, and so committed
to achieving their objectives,'' he said.
The Banner, which Miller started in 1965 during the era of urban renewal
and civil rights, has grown to a weekly distribution of 30,000 copies
and has chronicled the biggest stories in Boston's black community. The
free newspaper, which started as a subscription-based publication,
gained a reputation for taking city officials and departments to task:
The paper criticized the Boston Police Department for a lack of black
officers and it regularly challenged Mayor Thomas M. Menino on issues
such as development in the city's poorer neighborhoods.
Recently, the Banner has suffered from the economic downturn and
advertising slump that has hurt many newspapers across the country. The
Banner has gotten noticeably lighter recently because of fewer ads: The
first issue this month had 19 pages, compared with 30 pages the year
Wayne Budd, a former US attorney, said that given the current economic
climate he was not surprised about the Banner's closing. He said he has
had a recent conversation with Miller about passing the torch.
"If there is an upside to this story, it's that there is some
galvanization of opinion and action to make sure that this great
community organization for communities of color is preserved in one form
or another,'' Budd said.
To be sure, the Banner's demise has mobilized Boston's black community
and, apparently, officials and readers from across the state and region.
Menino said yesterday that he asked his financial team to look at
"several options'' and plans to meet with Miller next week. And through
e-mails, phone conversations, and face-to-face encounters, everyday
Boston residents have been trying to come up with solutions to save the
"After that story broke . . . it's just been nonstop conversation about
what to do,'' said Kelly Bates, executive director of the philanthropic
group Access Strategies Fund.
Among the more formal efforts, activists, educators, pastors, and
corporate executives plan to meet today at the office of the Boston
philanthropic group, the Barr Foundation, to discuss the Banner's
future. Union of Minority Neighborhoods planned the meeting to consider
strategies for Roxbury's only newspaper, said Horace Small, who heads
the community group.
"This is probably the most critical meeting in the black community in
years,'' Small said. "We have a vehicle that speaks uniquely about our
community - about the issues that affect us.''
The Rev. Bruce Wall of Global Ministries Christian Church in Dorchester
also organized an effort to build a subscription pool of 20,000 for the
Banner. He said he sent an e-mail to about 900 people and has urged
people to subscribe on his community radio and television shows.
"The Banner and I have a close working relationship,'' he said.
Target Market News
Congratulates the Recipients
of the 2009
of the Year
of the Year
LOUIS CARR President. Broadcast
of the Year
CRYSTAL WORTHEM Multicultural Marketing Manager
Ford Motor Co.
of the Year
ESTHER FRANKLIN Executive Vice Pres.,
Director of Cultural Identities
Starcom Mediavest Group
of the Year
President / CEO
"UNDER THE INFLUENCE"
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