"Over the years, Melvin B. Miller plowed thousands of dollars of his own money into the Bay State Banner to shore up the weekly newspaper he founded and owned,"Edward Mason reported Sunday for the Boston Globe. "But by the summer of 2009, the longtime voice of Boston's African-American community was on the brink of failure.
"Then, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, in the midst of a contentious reelection campaign, threw a lifeline to the Banner, engineering a pair of loans totaling $200,000 from an arm of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
"Some four years later, Menino has completed his fifth and final term, and left office. But the Banner has made only one payment on the loans, which, with interest, have ballooned past $280,000, according to documents obtained by the Globe through the state's public records law. Those documents also show that the paper continued to lose money in subsequent years even as its debt to Miller, from earlier loans he provided to the paper, shrank by more than $200,000.
"This history has not only spurred concerns from a city financial watchdog about how the Banner loan was made and administered, but also raises the broader question of under what circumstances taxpayer money should be risked to support private enterprises. At the same time, it shows that the economic forces battering daily newspapers across the country are also squeezing weekly and community publications.
"The Banner lost more than $400,000 between 2009 and 2012 before returning to profitability last year, when it earned about $40,000, according to financial records. Miller, meanwhile, has put a second home in New Hampshire up for sale to pay back the city. Miller did not respond to repeated interview requests, and, when finally reached, hung up on a reporter. . . ."