Too Diverse to Fail

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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:

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  1. …asks if an infusion of government cash will effect the paper’s independence

    or their copy editing.

  2. I don’t understand why journalists hand wring about the influence of government money on objective news coverage. It’s like listening to the cheerleader who has blown half the football time asking, “Will people lose respect for me if I date him?”

  3. team… dammit!

  4. I don’t understand why journalists hand wring about the influence of government money on objective news coverage.

    You’ll note, Jose, that they are giving their concerns lip service only. After all, I haven’t heard any of them saying that they will turn it down, or quit their jobs of their paper takes state money.

  5. Here are the first two items in the 1905 platform of The Niagra Movement, a predecessor of the NAACP:

    Freedom of speech and criticism.
    An unfettered and unsubsidized press.

    http://www.naacp.org/about/history/howbegan/index.htm

    I guess the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters don’t much cotton to history.

  6. With “lip service” coming after my oral sex reference and “cotton” in the sentence about Black Owned Broadcaster, I have to think at least one of those puns was intentional.

  7. “Minority-owned broadcasters are close to becoming an extinct species.”

    http://www.phillytrib.com/tribune/

  8. The solution is simple: Force all public libraries to subscribe to all black newspapers.

  9. And tax the rich to pay for it.

  10. Bad day for grammer at H&R. “I” used as an object and now “effect” used as a verb. Is there an editor with the day off?

  11. Of course their objectivity will be affected! Isn’t that the real reason why politicians seem to see no problem with government subsidized newspapers? They’re just bummed out that they didn’t know years ago how cheap and easily bought the journalists are. If they had, they would have done this years ago!

  12. Considering that Republicans are likely to cut their subsidies, it is pretty much inevitable that it will affect their impertiality. Their self-interest demands that the advocate for Democrats.

  13. And newspapers accepting advertising dollars somehow doesn’t create a trust issue about their impartiality and independence?

  14. Nobody seems to be making a distinction between minority-owned newspapers/broadcasters and the minority-focused newspapers/stations they own. If the minority focus doesn’t work any more, so what? Radio stations change format all the time without changing ownership. And I’ll bet there were German-American and Yiddish newspapers in the U.S. 100 years ago that no longer exist. Somehow the Republic survived this loss of “media diversity.”

  15. “Effect” is absolutely a verb (a noun, too). It’s just not the one Michael really wanted to use in that sentence.

  16. if an infusion of government cash will effect the paper’s independence:

    That’s a tautological question. Becoming dependent on the taxpayers’ largess ends one’s independence, QED.

    -jcr

  17. “effect” used as a verb.

    Effect is Ok as a verb, but it changes the meaning of the sentence. Effect = cause to happen. Affect = alter in some way.

    -jcr

  18. Minority-owned broadcasters just might become minority-owned podcasters. Eh.

  19. And newspapers accepting advertising dollars somehow doesn’t create a trust issue about their impartiality and independence?

    classwarrior just outed itself as a spoof.

  20. But who’s pulling the strings, Xeones? How far up the chain does the sockpuppetry go?*

    *Yes, I know I just conflated marionettes with handpuppets.

  21. The public doesn’t seem to mind PBS and NPR which have a quid pro quo with Democratic politicians.

    Worst part of this is that the loan will benefit the rich black publisher, Mel Miller, and nobody else, except maybe Mayor Menino.

    The “black community”, as it usually does, merely provides cover for its self-serving “leaders”.

  22. Maybe Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. will buy the newspaper with his eventual settlement. Lol

  23. You can’t sue the grammar police.

  24. Saddaam Hussein is reputed to have said that it’s cheaper to buy a journalist than to buy a tank. And you get more for your money.
    He may have had a couple of strategical blind spots, but he did know some things.

  25. What’s worse is the money is coming from the Boston Redevelopment Authority, which has been a target of the paper in the past. The mayor is running for reelection and this is essentially buying good PR with taxpayers dollars and paying off critics of the development authority.

    This is in addition to the paper being a lackluster publication in comparison to the other free neighborhood papers in the city. It reeks to high heaven of corruption and identity base politics.

  26. I live in Boston. I’ve read The Banner. It sucks: unoriginal, uninformative, unengaging. That said, our mayoral election has all the early markings of a landslide win for the incumbent. The Banner‘s endorsement won’t swing a half-dozen votes on net. Still, it’s a bad precedent.

    An underreported scandal is that the Black press is, in many MANY parts of the country, corrupt as hell. They call around shaking down advertisers to pay for messages that they don’t want to buy and then run “glorified press releases” under the auspices of “impartial news coverage.”

    The black community should really find the integrity to shame and shun these hucksters and end this practice. It’s embarrassing.

  27. Because the employees and readers “look like America.”

  28. As a Boston resident with all the problems the school system has maybe the city could have used that $200K to help kids learn how to read a book? With Menino this is just another $200K vote purchase.

  29. I have to wonder what the intended purpose of the $200,000 grant is. Is it to delay the next request for money for few months? or is it to delay the doom of the paper for a few months?

    Which of those eventualities is worth $200,000 to the Boston taxpayer?

  30. ‘…half the football time…’

    So there is an ‘i’ in team?

    /yeah, I saw your correction

  31. The public doesn’t seem to mind PBS and NPR which have a quid pro quo with Democratic politicians.

    Well, mostly the public ignores NPR and PBS. That segment of the public that disagrees with the Dems resents pretty strongly having to fund NPR and PBS.

    But other than that, I agree.

  32. Loaning money to a business that’s pretty obviously going to go bankrupt no matter what happens is a disguised gift, not a loan.

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