Fresh off a redesign of our site, Rhode Island’s Future has a new owner/editor now, too. It’s me!
Some of you may know me from my stint as the digital reporter/blogger for WPRO. I know it isn’t the most common career path to go from a right-leaning radio station to leftist-trumpeting website, so allow me to explain how I’ve come to this crossroads.
First off, I should say that I’ve always been a political progressive in my personal life and I’m thrilled to have an opportunity to preach what I practice.
That’s not to say it’s an easy transition. I place a very high value on objective journalism, and think it’s the most important ingredient in a balanced diet of news and information.
But in supposedly liberal Rhode Island, the marketplace of ideas has a noticeable conservative bent. From talk radio, to TV, to the internet, to the editorial pages of the Providence Journal, the local media offers almost no progressive analysis or commentary.
While conservative thought dominates the discussion, on the other side of the spectrum there is pretty much just RIFuture.
Since 2005, this site has been covering Rhode Island from the left’s perspective. Brian Hull, from whom I inherit this institution, has done yeoman’s work for the site since taking the helm in 2009. But as a grad student at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, it’s easy to understand why he would want to focus primarily on his studies.
I approached Brian shortly after being laid off from WPRO and offered to help him reinvigorate RIFuture. Instead, he offered to hand me the ball and let me run with it. Brian took over from Pat Crowley in 2009 and Crowley succeeded founder Matt Jerzyk in 2008.
The site will maintain the same core mission it’s had since its inception: serving up news, commentary and community for and about the progressive community. I’ll add some additional deadline posts, long-form journalism and beat reporting, as well as some thoughtful opinion pieces. The plan is to publish a product that is useful for all of Rhode Island.
Monetizing the site is important, too, so that the hard-working contributors can be compensated for their efforts. We’ll need the progressive community, and hopefully others, to step up and support us by advertising or donating (or both!) if we want to guarantee Rhode Island continues to have a voice for the left.
While I don’t have an exact business plan yet, I already know this much: There’s a niche for us here in our still-somewhat-liberal and still-somewhat-working class state. And, we’ve got a great group of committed people willing to help keep Rhode Island’s Future going strong. I’m proud to be one of them.
(The following has been written by Brian Hull): Yes everyone, all of the above is true. Bob Plain is the new owner and editor of the Rhode Island’s Future blog as of last week. For all of 2011, the site was largely on auto-pilot since I was unable to commit any time for management or writing due to my studies at Harvard’s Kennedy School (ask me about the amazing economic development proposals I’ve worked on to grow jobs in Haiti, New Orleans, Worcester, and Miami – and let me know if you need a policy person).
Each time I tried to create a group to help with the blog, that effort ended in failure. My frustration with the blog and the lack of support from the progressive community was evident when it devolved to nothing more than a screaming match between hardcore partisans each ridiculing each other. I decided to pull the plug and killed the blog at the end of last year, and for several weeks it just didn’t exist. Then something strange occurred. With the absence of the blog, supporters came out of the woodwork asking what they can do to help get it back up. After many lengthy conversations with a great many people and commitments for assistance, I decided to resurrect the blog with a fresh new look, and with all new content.
But I still knew that I couldn’t be at the helm. While I had a blast writing when it was my full-time gig in 2009 and most of 2010, I felt the blog needed to be entrusted to someone who has the time and dedication to pump it back to life. That someone is Bob Plain. And after several conversations with him, I handed over the reins.
I look forward to the newest iteration of the blog, and to see where Bob takes it. I will largely be a lurker, only occasionally posting comments or articles. And in parting I offer these words of advice for Bob and the larger progressive community. The Rhode Island’s Future blog needs to once again be the strong liberal / progressive voice for the state of Rhode Island. In its absence, the political narrative that has permeated the state has fluctuated between centrism and varying degrees of conservative talking points. The mythology of Rhode Island as a liberal bastion needs to be disproven by truly progressive and forward-thinking advocacy embodied in the posts of RI Future. Without a strong progressive counterbalance to this pull to the right, the policy choices on display at the General Assembly and in City Halls throughout the state will be narrowed to a small pool of false and foolish tradeoffs that merely prolong Rhode Island’s economic malaise.