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Patrick: Bay State Banner closure "devastating"

Gov. Deval Patrick said Tuesday he was “devastated” by news of the closure of a local African-American newspaper.

Speaking to a crowd of ethnic media reporters at the State House, the state’s first black governor said the weekly Bay State Banner had a “venerable history.” “I don’t want that to happen,” he said of the closure.

But, he added, there was little he could do, especially with a number of other priorities on his plate. “I wish I knew what the solution was,” he said. “I’ve got a long list of the problems that I have to focus on before I focus on that one.”

“If the economy were different I think that probably there would be a longer list of new investors than maybe there are today,” he added.

The paper’s publisher and editor, Melvin Miller, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that loss of advertising revenue has contributed to the closure and said he would not “go around twisting arms” to get people to invest in the paper.

The closure of the paper also may mean one less headache for Mayor Thomas Menino’s re-election campaign. The paper has been openly hostile to the mayor.

Miller had been on tear – three editorials since April – criticizing Menino because the Boston Redevelopment Authority tabled a Roxbury project that Miller supported.

In the first one in April, the editorial said, “After the Elma Lewis decision, no self-respecting African American can vote for Menino if he chooses to run again. It is time for Menino to step down so that he will be remembered for his many achievements.”

Menino eventually reversed course on the project, but the editorials continued.

“After more than 16 years in office, Mayor Thomas M. Menino can hardly be considered an agent of change,” an editorial last month said. “But he has discovered a solution to the problem — simply adopt the proposals of his mayoral rivals who are calling for change.”