A new beginning
My partner Andre Stark and I have purchased the Banner to preserve its legacy as a voice for people of color and expand its operations to better serve its readers in the 21st century. Both of us were born and raised in the Boston area. We both have decades of experience in journalism and multi-media production.
I have worked for 40 years in broadcast television. In 1995, I started at WCBS in New York as a freelance news editor. Back then, I did double-duty commuting back and forth from WCBS and WBZ here in Boston, the station I retired from last Friday after 27 years there as a video journalist.
At WBZ, I created thousands of stories. Many created positive change. One forced racist history textbooks from Texas to be removed from Brookline’s elementary school, including my son’s at the time. Another revealed former Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker had not appointed a black Superior Court judge in his first six years in office. After that story aired, Baker appointed two African American judges, one to the Supreme Judicial Court and one to Superior Court.
Another story that I’m really proud of we followed for five years. A Brookline firefighter received a voice mail message containing the n-word from a white commanding officer. After the multiple stories we aired, the Black firefighter received a multi-million dollar settlement from the town of Brookline to compensate for the racism and damage to his life.
One of the most positive stories I did led the town of Somerville, which had never named anything after a Black resident, to name the city’s new high school track and field for Phil Reavis Sr., the only Olympian ever from Somerville whose family roots there go back to the 1860s.
Andre Stark is a filmmaker who has produced news magazine and documentary features for “Frontline,” and “Nova,” nationally syndicated shows at WGBH-TV in Boston. Our backgrounds in the visual treatment of news and feature stories suit an era when consumption of journalism has been migrating online, often combining text and video. More about that later. I want to tell you about our philosophy about the mission of journalists in this moment in history, a philosophy that will guide coverage in the printed and digital pages of the Banner.
We see our responsibility as telling the often difficult truth. The good, the bad and, even more importantly, the ugly. It is our responsibility to provide our communities with detailed information and truth about our society so that the Banner’s readers, as responsible members of this American democracy, can make smart decisions, not only to better their own personal lives, but also to create a better society for our children in the future.
Today much news is often created and shaped by influencers, not journalists. Those stories are often skewed to promote the most clicks by focusing on the most controversial or emotional elements. Issues tend to be more nuanced and complicated than that.
We, as journalists, must live up to our sacred creed and not give into influence-ism. We must not fail to fulfill our responsibility to society. We need to provide the facts and the truth that are desperately needed to continue to help our country grow into the free and fair democracy that our country’s founders envisioned and promised. I truly believe we are in a battle for the soul of our nation, and we as journalists are the warriors on the front lines.
Since 1965, the Banner has been a sober, uplifting voice committed to advancing the interests of Black people and people of color in the Boston area. The paper is already one of the best black-owned weeklies in the country.
We are honored that Mel Miller has entrusted us with sustaining the newspaper that he founded and represents his life’s work. We will continue the best practices he and his staffers over the decades have adopted. The paper’s value and quality can be seen in its service to readers and its alumni, who include late PBS News Hour anchor Gwen Ifill and former New York Times reporter Lee Daniels.
We do plan changes to build upon the strong foundation that Mel Miller has laid. We will expand news coverage into the five other states in New England, ultimately producing three regional editions for Rhode Island, Connecticut and a combined one for the states north of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont. We will bulk up the Banner’s website with short videos to accompany stories. We aim to attract more digital advertising, in different forms, to support our expanded coverage.
We look forward to serving current Banner readers and broadening the newspaper’s audience and impact.
Ronald Mitchell is the Banner’s publisher and editor.