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Pressing forward

8/4/2009, 6:30 a.m.
“Honey, you can turn off the television — the Banner is back.”

Pressing forward

The Banner is back! Enthusiastic readers and supporters would not let it die. Banner advocates believe, as the saying goes, that the Banner is “too big to fail.” The loss of the Banner would leave Boston’s African American community without a voice.

Several prominent members of the community — including Professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr. of Harvard Law School, Ronald L. Walker II, president of Next Street Financial, and Kevin Cohee, chairman of OneUnited Bank — led the effort to bring the Banner back. And Mayor Thomas M. Menino endorsed a loan from a nonprofit administered by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). The purpose of the fund is to provide risk capital for small businesses in Boston.

Despite the outpouring of public support, there are some who assert that it is preferable for the Banner to fail than to accept a loan from the BRA fund. Their concern is that to do so creates the appearance of political compromise and the loss of independence.

Strangely, Boston Globe reporters had no such objection when their parent company, the New York Times, became intensely involved with the City of New York for the development of their new headquarters. In order to create a suitable site, the Empire State Development Corporation, which acts similarly on the state level to the BRA, took by eminent domain the properties of owners who refused to sell. Then the Times was given a ground lease which, according to some critics, was below market. After construction, the Times was given tax breaks of $26.1 million.

If, as some critics suggest, business relations with political entities inevitably interfere with journalistic objectivity, then that must mean the Times is totally corrupted. Clearly, that is not the case. Neither is National Public Radio journalistically impaired by the fact that 16 percent of its budget comes from federal, state and local governments.

Why, then, do critics conclude that the Banner has sacrificed its independence by accepting a loan from the city? That assertion is both inaccurate and insulting to the journalistic courage that the Banner has demonstrated for 44 years.

In this instance, Menino proved more sophisticated than media critics. He knows that he has not purchased biased coverage from the Banner. He was willing to run the risk of reviving an independent journalistic voice because he knows that at the end of the day, the Banner is good for Boston.

This is a challenging era for the press. Reporters must be even more diligent if newspapers are to survive. Imprudent commentaries are hardly superior to unedited blogs.

Why did reporters not understand that potential investors for the Banner could not be officially solicited until a proper prospectus is prepared? The Times recently hired Goldman Sachs to perform that function in order to sell the Boston Globe’s stake in the Boston Red Sox and NESN. The Times turned to Wall Street; the Banner turned to Next Street. That due diligence process is now underway at the Banner.

Banner readers are hardly pleased to learn that reporters from other media outlets are willing to sacrifice the survival of the Banner out of deference to an old shibboleth about perceptions that has little relevance to the present age of journalism. Banner readers know from past experience that the newspaper is ruggedly independent.

The Banner’s staff is encouraged by the many expressions of support and is delighted to return to work. The Banner pledges to continue the independent, informative and well-researched journalism that has been its hallmark for the past 44 years.