The Bay State Banner may survive. According to the Boston Globe’s Meghan Irons, Harvard Law School professor Charles Ogletree (photo) says he has lined up a dozen investors to save the weekly newspaper, which serves Greater Boston’s African-American community. Ogletree says the Banner, founded 44 years ago by Melvin Miller, who’s still the publisher, could resume publication next week.
Meanwhile, the Phoenix’s Adam Reilly takes a closer look at the Banner and finds it to be “uneven.” But though Reilly pays lip service to the notion that the Banner is a community paper rather than the African-American equivalent of the Globe or the Boston Herald, I think he gets a little too hung up on the Banner’s shortcomings in comparison to major media outlets.
The real point of comparison ought to be with neighborhood papers like the Jamaica Plain Gazette, the South End News and the Dorchester Reporter, as well as ethnic papers like El Planeta, the Boston Irish Reporter and the Boston Haitian Reporter.
I don’t want to make it sound like I’m intimately familiar with what those papers publish every week; far from it. But I do know that neighborhood papers are where you go for church and school announcements, news about local businesses and the like, which you rarely see in either of the city’s dailies. Whenever I’ve picked up a Banner, that’s what has stood out.
Of course, a weekly newspaper isn’t the only way of covering a neighborhood or an ethnic community. New England Ethnic News, for instance, offers an online compendium of the city’s ethnic newspapers, including the Banner.
In addition, a couple of years ago, there was a serious proposal to launch a Web-based news service for Roxbury, with content to be provided by citizen journalists who’d be recruited for the task. Perhaps the smartest idea was to tie the Web site to a local-access cable program.
It never got off the ground, which was a shame. But if the Banner revival falls short — or even if it doesn’t — we’re likely to see some online experiments in reaching out to Boston’s neighborhoods.