Banner suspends publication; cites loss of ad revenues

Banner Staff | 7/8/2009, 7:14 a.m.
In an undated photograph, Dr. Charles Steward stands near the entrance of The Guardian, the weekly newspaper started by his brother-in-law William Monroe Trotter. Steward and his wife, Maude, ran the paper after Trotter’s death in 1934. Maude died in 1957 and with Dr. Steward’s blessing, Melvin B. Miller started the Banner eight years later. The Banner announced Monday it is suspending publication after 44 years. Banner file

Management of the Bay State Banner has decided to suspend publication with this week’s edition, ending — at least temporarily — the long-running, African American-owned weekly newspaper.

Publisher and Editor Melvin B. Miller started the newspaper in 1965, focusing coverage on the social, political and economic condition of the African American community. In a brief statement released Monday, Miller said that the economic recession had finally taken its toll on the Banner.

“The severe reduction of advertising during this recession has placed a burden on the resources of the 44-year-old weekly newspaper,” Miller said. “Publication is expected to resume once financial arrangements have been completed.”

A Roxbury man, Miller graduated from Boston Latin, Harvard and Columbia Law School. When he started the newspaper, Miller saw his mission as continuing the tradition of the Guardian, the weekly newspaper founded by William Monroe Trotter in 1901. Trotter was an outspoken critic of Booker T. Washington and reserved his sharpest criticism for the segregationist policies of President Woodrow Wilson.

After Trotter’s untimely death in 1934, his sister Maude and her husband, Dr. Charles Steward, ran the Guardian until her death in 1957. With Dr. Steward’s blessings, Miller started the Banner eight years later.

Based on recent audited figures, the Banner has a print circulation of nearly 34,000 and has a readership of about 150,000.

In recent years, the Banner has launched a Web site, which now averages about 1 million new visitors each month, and several new publications to diversify revenue streams and create different advertising platforms. The new publications include “Be Healthy,” a monthly health supplement focused on reducing racial disparities through public awareness; “Inclusion,” an annual glossy magazine on diversity; and “Exhale,” a quarterly magazine focused on women’s health.

A planned fourth publication, “Step Up,” recently received a $50,000 grant from The Boston Foundation to highlight the achievements of students of color throughout the Boston Public Schools system.

Miller would not disclose any further details.