Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Ethnic newspapers suffer in downturn

Amy Scott Jul 8, 2009
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Fallout: The Financial Crisis

Ethnic newspapers suffer in downturn

Amy Scott Jul 8, 2009
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TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Potential buyers of the Boston Globe have a bit more time to think things over. The New York Times Company that owns the Globe is said to have postponed today’s deadline for initial bids. But the Globe isn’t the only struggling paper in Boston.

This week’s issue of the Bay State Banner could be the last. The Banner, an African-American newspaper, started during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. And Marketplace’s Amy Scott reports this recession has hurt a number of minority-owned and ethnic newspapers around the country.


AMY SCOTT: Melvin Miller borrowed $10,000 to start the Bay State Banner in 1965. Today he says he can’t get a line of credit to keep the paper running. As advertising revenue has fallen, Miller says he’s kept the paper afloat with his own money.

MELVIN MILLER: And so the issue that remained to me is whether I was going to continue to underwrite the losses that we would suffer because of the decline in advertising and the answer I came up with was no.

The Banner’s demise leaves Boston without a newspaper focused on African Americans. It’s a story playing out around the country. Another black paper, the San Francisco Bay View, switched from a weekly print edition to monthly last year. A few papers aimed at Latino and Asian immigrants have shut down.

But while some publications are closing and cutting staff, others are starting up. Edwin Okong’o is with New America Media, a coalition of ethnic media outlets. He says these outlets cater to people who don’t see themselves in the mainstream press.

EDWIN OKONG’O: This is what is really driving ethnic media. We want to read about ourselves.

Some are even making money. John B. Smith, Sr. publishes the Atlanta Inquirer. He says his ad revenue is up this year. Smith says black newspapers are trusted by their readers. And advertisers like that.

JOHN B. SMITH: They can get more for their dollar by using our newspapers all across the country.

Smith says minority-owned newspapers are used to struggling, so they’re in a better position to survive these latest tough times.

I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

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