According to a report in The Boston Globe, a small-circulation, Boston-based newspaper focusing on that city's black community "plans to accept a $200,000 loan from the city to stay afloat, despite criticism that the money could compromise its impartiality during an election year." The Bay State Banner, which ceased publication last month because of declining ad revenues, is the city's only black-owned newspaper. The news comes a week after a group of minority-owned broadcasters petitioned Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for federal aid, warning that "Minority-owned broadcasters are close to becoming an extinct species."
The Globe, itself clinging to life, asks if an infusion of government cash will effect the paper's independence:
Kelly McBride, an ethics specialist who trains journalists at the Poynter Institute in Florida, said publications that take public money to fund their operations whether in the form of a grant, loan, or tax break are risking public trust that they are impartial and independent."If they're still getting loan money and this paper is covering the election, that could get pretty sticky," she said.
When the paper ceased publication, one Boston Phoenix writer lamented the extinction of the Banner but pointed out that, despite its reputation as a scrappy and original voice in the Boston media landscape, it relied heavily on Associated Press content and produced mediocre local coverage:
That said, the overall quality of the Banner's local coverage is uneven. A recent piece on the opening of the new cultural center at the Islamic Society of Boston (ISB) failed to seriously engage the concerns that have been raised by the society's critics; it read, instead, like a glorified press release. And the ISB story wasn't an anomaly. Plenty of the Banner's component parts on any given week — e.g., the In the News section, which gives a pat on the back to local individuals who've been fêted for their achievements — seem, at first glance, better suited to a small-town community newspaper than a big-city weekly.
A few months back, Reason.tv wondered why the government would support an industry that consumers are rejecting: