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by Nancy Thomas, publisher
It’s been a year! When we started this article it was to note the media’s comings and goings from Rhode Island, or from jobs in Rhode Island. But then it became more than that. There has been no bigger year for growth and change in media than this surreal 2020. We’ve seen the rise of digital journalism, albeit at the chipping away of legacy media.
Entire news disciplines – sports, for one – whittled down to almost nothing to report – and then sports reporters discovered features, and school sports, and they hung in there, and still do.
The overall kudos of the year go to the reporters who have hung in for countless – hundreds – of Rhode Island daily and then weekly updates on the coronavirus pandemic. After months of daily press conferences in Rhode Island where reporters submitted questions in real time for consideration – to twice a week, then weekly updates – and add in some Facebook Lives and ZOOMs, the media work has upticked again as we transition to vaccine developments from Operation Warp Speed – and now vaccine administering all over the US. Add in a presidential change of power – we believe – and there’s a lot of news out there – and a lot more questions.
So let’s give a shout out to some who have been on the reporter’s side since day one, back in March. We’ve focused on the newer reporters and bloggers in addition to those who are more legacy-media assigned. Apologies to any left out. We started with trying to identify the voices shouting for time to question the Governor – and we’re back there again with Facebook Lives, so here we go:
Jim Hummel, of The Hummel Report, the Providence Journal, and RI Public Television, hammered away putting a face to public policy – and earned the simple name “Hummel” from the Governor.
John DePetro was named Best of RI Award by RI Monthly for Radio Talk Show Host this year – and he was a steady voice asking questions, never failing to leave out the personal questions for the Governor, which brought a rare smile and interlude to the grilling. DePetro’s vigilence in covering Black Lives Matter protests worried us as threats went way too far, and he hung in there with video and person-on-the-scene interviews in real time.
Michael Bilow, of Motif Magazine, new to some of us, not all of us, was a constant at the Governor’s COVID19 press conferences with the complex drill-down.
Tanya Signore, of The Rhode Island Echo added one of the rare female voices at the Governor’s press conference – and told us, also, of her bout with coronavirus.
Elizabeth McNamara asked the questions with the East Greenwich News perspective.
Bill Bartholomew, of The Bartholomewtown Podcast came on the reporting scene and cut his teeth on the pandemic crisis – as well as Black Lives Matter – with handy phone/camera he seemed to be everywhere where groups gathered, even at his own safety risk, live and local.
WPRI’s Ted Nesi & Kim Kalunian – the dynamic duo, each with their own voice, joined by Tim White, for a trio of coverage. Supplement that with solid reporting and questioning from Steph Machado, and Kait Walsh. And – a standalone tip of the hat to Eli Sherman – keeper of the data, and the charts, and the trends – willing to share and help others – kudos, Eli!
ProJo’s reporters included Patrick Anderson, G. Wayne Miller, Kathy Gregg, Brian Amaral, Madeline List, Linda Borg on education, and “Journal Team” members, fewer, but important, every one…
NBC10’s Brian Crandall there with the lead-in and the wrap-up, asking, clarifying, probing. Katie Davis on the trail of misinformation – all for the people. Parker Gavigan, a solid voice on the scene. Lynzi DeLuccia, in-studio and out.
ABC6’s standout voice – Amanda Pitts
RI Public’s Radio – Lynn Arditi, Ian Donnis, and the now retired Scott MacKay did the deep, thoughtful dives.
Mike Stenhouse, RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity – Mike’s been drawn into the healthcare debacle and has been doing some conservative-bent podcasts and Facebook lives – and doing a great job of promoting them.
Boston Globe’s Rhode Island team of Dan MacGowan, Ed Fitzpatrick and Amanda Milkovits – with Lylah Alphonse as editor, has RI with its own drop-down tab on the Globe, giving the littlest state some regional clout.
Steve Ahlquist and UpRiseRI work the progressive beat – doing a particularly fine job of video – with always managing a reserved ticket at any protest. When they work on city/town government, they shine. Should do it more.
WPRO Radio’s Tara Granahan, keeping the heat on and letting the public have their voice in the a.m. – on the phone with questions and becoming penpals with Health Dept. PR contacts to demand answers to her questions – the people’s questions – and she gets them.
John Howell, Warwick Beacon and so much more – lent the senior voice to the scrum-in-the-dark, clarifying and localizing.
Jim Vincent, one of our writers, host of The Jim Vincent Show – moving with the minority issues, keeping us current, always accessible, with a moderate tone and strong advocacy – respected on all sides of an issue – and therefore, successful at moving his causes.
We’ll put Gene Valicenti – dual media guy in a category of his own. Valicenti has emerged as the interviewer with institutional knowledge. From his weekday morning 3-hour radio show on WPRO, to the NBC10 news slots, including evening anchor, and 10 News Conference, we don’t know when you sleep, Gene, but Rhode Island is all the better for your own Rhode Island-wokeness.
To Margie O’Brien – from RI Capitol TV – put into service to host Q&A’s with the Governor at those early press conferences – we all weren’t very kind. You were given a thankless job, to read our questions, to be even in your tone – and we ate you up and spit you out – you were a pro, every moment, every day – and we were not. It’s a nasty business.
Where would we be without our medical experts? And RI has some national stars. With acknowledgements first to Dr. Michael Fine – here, there and everywhere, eager to give of his expertise. Daily video interviews with GoLocalProv have been noteworthy. Among it all, he managed to publish a year of short stories with RINewsToday – and he wrote a book! National recognition to Dr. Megan Ranney & Dr. Ashish Jha, seen on morning news from CNN to FOX News and actively educating us on Twitter. Health Dept. experts became familiar to us as they jumped in and out of press conferences – including Dr. Alexander-Scott, Dr. James McDonald, and Dr. Chan. Thumbs up to Dr. McDonald for stepping out of the doctor comfort role and making us smile, and talking to us as humans sharing the same daily trudge through COVID19 – never forgetting the children that were watching.
Tom Quinlan & Alex Weldon, long time WPRO staff, started their own radio show on Saturday afternoons, The Weldon Quinlan Show – not sure of it’s future, but it is a rare perspective from two young conservatively inclined radio pros – and we liked it – hope they get a solid time slot, and some promo commitment.
Walt Buteau, veteran investigative reporter going to WFLA-TV in Florida – big loss for RI.
Jordan Mazza of ABC6 says he had the option to stay, but feels this is the right time to pursue new opportunities.
Meri Kennedy, Cranston Herald – strong, consistent, amidst personal health challenges – a role model to us all that news is hyperlocal, and never forget to accentuate the positive when you can.
Alan Rosenberg, editor, Providence Journal, retired Dec. 1st – hopefully his voice will find new platforms.
Scott MacKay, of The Public Radio has retired, but he’ll rise again – we know it.
Sandor Bodo, photographer par excellence at ProJo, retired
The Dan Yorke Show on Fox/WPRI has moved from daily to once a week. Yorke has also been doing an opinion piece weekly for The Valley Breeze as well as his daily radio show on WPRO.
WPRI’s Tim White enrolled in RWU Law School, seeking an MSL, while continuing to report regularly.
Joe Paolino, Jr. and In The Arena, interviews key players in RI weekly on his television show on ABC6 – more should know about it.
Jim Hummel’s “A Lively Experiment” – heck, it’s cool, it has institutional history – and it’s super-relevant – we tried to promote it but RI PBS reeled it in – c’mon folks, let the light shine in.
Another nudge to RIPBS – doing some great things in their quiet little silo – somewhat talking to themselves, but content to do it – with great talent jumping their ships to be with you – how about promoting them and sharing the talent… WJAR’s Michelle San Miguel followed by Bill Rappleye, and Bill Bartholomew doing great work on Rhode Island PBS Weekly. Check it out. If you can find them.
Liz Tufts has left her job at Channel 6 to be media coordinator for the city of Warwick’s mayor.
Kevin McNamara, known most for ProJo sports writing has started his own thing! Check it out at kevinmcsports.com – site looks like a big score in sports.
Ryan Belmore continues strong with What’s Up Newp?
EcoRINews keeps the heat on environmental issues in and around RI – we’d encourage a “lite” version, so everyone knows what you’re talking about. Kudos for the deep divers.
Ed Achorn, ProJo, who retired last year, has started his own blog – edachorn.com – he’s saying everything he always wanted to – but couldn’t – and we enjoy reading it.
Richard Asinof, ConvergenceRI, the smartest health, science, and technology reporter in our sandbox, exposed the muddiness of RI systems – and then let us in on his personal struggle for a diagnosis and treatment of a mystery – as he now heals, without skipping a beat.
Meaghan Mooney has left NBC10 with no announced plans.
Madeline List, key reporter with the Providence Journal, has gone to Vietnam to teach English (and gets the award for the most unusual change).
Ron St. Pierre’s contract not renewed from WHJJ Radio; Worcester IHeartRadio’s Jim Polito show will be carried in the RI market.
Lauren Clem has been promoted to deputy editor of The Valley Breeze.
Alexa Gagosz, Providence Business News reporter, has left the publication.
National News! The Village Voice, the long-running NYC alt-weekly which ended publication in 2017, has announced they will return to both digital and print. They were acquired by Street Media, who currently publishes LA Weekly (and bought it from Voice Media in 2017).
Caroline Goggin, a reporter at WPRI for 4 years, left to join 7 News in Boston.
Ruthie Polinsky, at WPRI for 3 years as a sports reporter, left for a Miami TV station.
Chelsea Jones is a new reporter at WPRI – welcome!
Peter Wells, ProvAmNews is online and local – though long not in print – should be a year full of news from them
Block Island Times transitions as 8-year editor, Lars Trodson exits to lead the Block Island Chamber of Commerce and Renee Meyer is named editor.
Jared Pelletier of NBC10 has left to go to Healy PT, a family business
Kate Bramson, former ProJo reporter who was working at the RI Senate, has left that position.
Erika Niedowski passed away. Erika passed away. Long time reporter, young and vibrant, with so many interests – having followed her passion to work in solar energy. Erika passed away.
Gannett, the parent company of Providence Journal, Newport Daily News, USA Today and more than 100 newspapers throughout the country, will outsource the jobs of 485 employees on its business side to India. They have furloughing every employee without pay for a week over several months earlier this year and after offering buyouts to all employees (500 employees taking up the offer).
The Providence Journal has transitioned out of their iconic building in Providence and now produces the paper 100% from home offices.
The Hartford Courant in Connecticut will move all employees to home, and sell their building.
Ed Yong, a favorite science writer during the pandemic at The Atlantic, will step away from covering coronavirus to pick up where he left off on the book he was writing,
Molly O’Brien, who had left Ch. 10, came back to media briefly, and is now a “multi-platform media personality” and the voice of the Association of Migraine Disorders.
Tamara Sacharczyk is now part of the NBC10 I-Team and will be working on investigative reporting, having transitioned from morning anchor.
WADK Radio partnering with us to reach all those folks in Newport County – love it! Right back at you…
A New Year’s Wish from RINewsToday: as we close out our 2nd year, we look back on the closeness among media in 2020 – and how we see ourselves part of relaying life-saving information to 1 million people who get their news in a variety of ways. We also see moderating the negatives as a mission – bringing you “good news” and encouragement that we’ll all get through this and it’s not COVID19 24/7 – even when it is. We’ve been kind to one another – mostly. Some writers who’ve retired or left long gigs write for us now – and stay tuned for more announcements about that.
If we all could learn one thing from this year of no sleep, and one story after the other with no end in site about COVID19, it is that we are strong, we are powerful, our words mean something, they are important to people. Also, it is critical to be critical – to ask the tough questions. We need to be less printers and readers of press releases – and more looking beyond and having the resources to develop stories in a fast-paced world. We need to be less motivated by who gets the story first – and moderate that word of “exclusive” – and be less pushed to do so by those who employ us.
We need to realize that there are many who are not trained journalists, in the classical sense, but who have a voice that is hear to stay in the market. Bloggers, podcasters, Facebook Live-ers, and citizen journalism is not going anywhere. It is part of how the world is changing around us.
Into 2021 we go – in many ways, it’s just another day… just another year… may we treat this important time we work in as not… just another story.
Great document!!! Thank you, and yes there were hardly any female reporters at the Governor’s press briefings. I enjoyed reading about all of the above.
The RI Echo
Thanks, Tanya! You did a great job… (do!)…
It was great to read the summary of all those that kept misinformation at bay. The funny part is I don’t think any of them want the credit. Most do what they do for the love of it. Some even get paid. I hope that those listed know that they are read, listened to and are commented on. I read many, and even though I might disagree, I still read them.
I think you are doing a great job. I know it must be tough in this day. I cannot see it ending before this time next year. Especially with so many already saying they won’t take the vaccine. Again, this is caused by misinformation. Lies travel like a jet plane and truth travels on a pony.