Bay State Banner
|Publisher||Melvin B. Miller|
|Editor||Melvin B. Miller|
The Bay State Banner is an independent newspaper primarily geared toward the readership interests of the African-American community in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bay State Banner was founded in 1965 by Melvin B. Miller who remains the chief editor and publisher. In 2015, the publication celebrated its 50th anniversary serving the region's minority-oriented neighborhoods.
Notable journalists who have worked at the Bay State Banner include PBS host Gwen Ifill, NPR commentator Robin Washington, and Bryant Rollins, a former Boston Globe reporter, community activist and author, who served as the Banner's first editor.
The Bay State Banner was started in 1965 by Melvin B. Miller, who remains the newspaper's chief editor and publisher, with the help of his brother Jack Miller. A native of Boston, Miller is a graduate of Boston Latin School, Harvard University, and Columbia Law School, and has had an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters conferred on him by Suffolk University and Emerson College.
The Bay State Banner’s first issue, on September 25th, 1965, ran with a headline reading “What’s Wrong With Our Schools?” next to photographs of the Gibson School in Dorchester, which had an all-black student population, and the newly opened Henry Grew School in predominantly white Hyde Park.
Miller has stated that he considers the Banner to be a successor to the Boston Guardian, a local newspaper founded in 1901 that aimed to represent black Bostonians until its closure in the 1950s, in that the Banner offers coverage of issues that affect the diverse community that lives in Boston, rather than those who commute in or visit. Inspired by the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 just one year prior, Miller opened the Banner in an effort to empower black voices, and combat media representation of black Bostonians as "losers" (Miller quips that Boston is a "city of winners", regardless of race). Miller hoped to expose what he viewed as Boston's unique form of racism, and subvert the control white Irish Catholics held over both the city and the media at the time. The paper would go on to cover the Boston desegregation busing crisis, and the actions taken by the NAACP’s Ruth Batson. The Banner has been cited as a precursor to Stokely Carmichael’s work. From its inception, the Banner has covered and supported local community efforts in Roxbury and its surrounding neighborhoods, including Operation Head Start and Action for Boston Community Development. Miller sought to differentiate the paper from other “black papers” of the time by covering important and controversial stories, and taking strong stances on them.
Miller has frequently cited his wife, Sandra Casagrand, as an important business partner who has helped him navigate the paper through the “roughest seas”.
In April 1966, less than a year after The Bay State Banner was founded, it went out of business for four weeks due to a lack of advertising revenue, the headline read "Banner Being Forced Out Of Business". Almost immediately after the paper folded, community residents formed a Committee to Save the Banner, which put pressure on local businesses to advertise in order to support the paper. Four weeks later the Banner was back on the stands.
The Bay State Banner suspended publication on July 9, 2009, laying off its staff of 12. In the last edition of the paper before this suspension Publisher Melvin B. Miller summarized he was looking for investors in order to resume publication, but that the banner's free-distribution of 30,000 copies was not sustainable in the face of falling ad revenue. Harvard University law professor Charles Ogletree started lining up investors to save The Bay State Banner  but the publication ended up accepting a $200,000 bailout loan by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino from the Boston Local Development Corp., a nonprofit administered by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Miller said the loan would help the paper survive while it arranges a new business plan with Next Street Financial LLC, a financial services company. Boston Local Development, the nonprofit arranging the loan, has made similar loans to local businesses, including a coffee shop and bicycle company. Menino had been running for reelection at the time and had often been criticized by the Banner, which at one point suggested in an editorial that he step down from office. Menino said he was not trying to influence the paper with the loan offer, but wanted to "help a business that is very important to the minority community."
2013 Loan Audit and Controversy
On January 12, 2014, following Menino's end of term, the Boston Globe published an article publicizing Melvin B. Miller's personal financial records, along with the financial situation of the Bay State Banner. The article questioned the necessity of the bailout five years prior. The same week, the Banner accused the Boston Globe of defamation in an open letter, claiming bias in their coverage of the Banner's current financial situation, which claimed that the paper remained more than $200,000 in debt following the near closure in 2009, losing nearly $400,000 between 2009 and 2012, with ad revenue dropping 17 percent in three years. This coverage followed an audit launched by the Boston Finance Commission into the Boston Redevelopment Authority associated loan. The BRA defended the loan, standing by Menino's argument that the loan was important to save a business that was “very important to the minority community”.
2018 "Boston Revisited" Showcase
In 2018, the Banner was the subject of an exhibition at the Howard Gotlieb Memorial Gallery at Boston University's Mugar Library entitled “Boston Revisited: 50 Years of the Bay State Banner”. The exhibit featured a photographic history of Boston's black community through photography from the Banner archives, including examples of Boston's news, politics, editorials, arts, sports, education and business from the last half century. This showcase accompanied an essay entitled “Boston’s Banner Years: 1965–2015: A Saga of Black Success”, produced by Miller and the writers of the Banner.
The Banner' initial format was a 10-page broadsheet, switching to a tabloid in 1968. In 2005, the paper's staff of 20 produced issues up to 40 pages long, distributed on Thursdays.
- "Boston Black Weekly, 'Bay State Banner,' Suspends Publication." Editor & Publisher, 7 July 2009. Accessed 29 Oct. 2017.
- McBride, James. "The Bay State Banner: the paper and the publisher." Boston Globe. November 22, 1981. Accessed 29 Oct 2017.
- "Melvin B. Miller." N.d. Bay State Banner.
- Wright O'Conner, Brian. “Banner Has Recorded 50 Years of History.” The Bay State Banner, 4 Feb. 2015.
- Kline, Marcia B. “Bay State Banner.” The Harvard Crimson, 24 May 1966. Accessed 20 March 2019.
- Strain, Tracy H. and Maclowry, Randall. “Neighborhood Matters: The Bay State Banner: Unity, Progress and 50 Years of Advocating Change [film].” The Film Posse, 2015. Accessed 20 March 2019.
- Brooks, Anthony, & Miller, Melvin B. “Boston's Black History As Seen Through The Bay State Banner [recording].” WBUR, 15 February 2019. Accessed 20 March 2019.
- Swerdlow. “Oral History of the Bay State Banner.” The Miller Center Foundation and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, 2016. Accessed 20 March 2019.
- Forry, Bill. “Long Live the Bay State Banner.” Dorchester Reporter, 11 November, 2015. Accessed 20 March 2019.
- Samuels, Adrienne P. "Raising a Banner Celebration; forty years ago, a black journalist answered the call." Boston Globe. Oct 29 2005. Accessed 29 Oct. 2017.
- "Boston City Loan Will Keep 'Bay State Banner' Flying." Editor & Publisher, 20 July 2009. Accessed 29 Oct. 2017.
- "The Banner's Questionable Loan." Boston Globe Jul 21 2009. Accessed 29 Oct. 2017.
- Mason, Edward. “Should Boston have Bailed Out the Bay State Banner?” The Boston Globe, 12 January 2014. Accessed 20 March 2019.
- Mason, Edward. “Bay State Banner hits Globe in front-page retort.” The Boston Globe, 24 January 2014. Accessed 20 March 2019.
- Angel, Kim. “‘50 Years of the Bay State Banner’ exhibit opens, shows Boston’s black community history.” Boston University Daily Free Press, 27 September 2018. Accessed 20 March 2019.