Governor Raimondo Apologizes After Remarks About Rhode Island Media Organizations

Oct 4, 2017

Raimondo with The Providence Journal's Katherine Gregg during one of the governor's periodic conversations with local reporters.
Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo made critical remarks about the local media during an appearance Tuesday at Brown University, calling The Providence Journal a diminished way of reaching news consumers and labeling broadcast news, including a regular segment she does with WJAR-TV (Channel 10), "almost like talk radio."

Raimondo spoke during a discussion moderated by Cathy Russell, a former U.S. ambassador for global issues related to women, at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

During the conversation, Raimondo lamented the fracturing of the media. "It's almost impossible to get the news out, if you will," she said. "Even in the short time I've been in government, I mean, I've been in public life for six years."

"Six years ago, when I started this, our local paper, The Providence Journal was something that many or most Rhode Islanders read -- certainly all influencers read," Raimondo said. It's a shadow of its former self ... I think they're down to 16 reporters, so you can't rely on that."

"News, broadcast news, has become almost like talk radio," the governor continued. "I do this one on one thing with live TV," referring to a regular segment with WJAR's Dan Jaehnig. "And it started out, even when I started two years ago as a nice back and forth, and now they call it 'going one on one with the governor,' like it's all a fight, you know motif."

As a result, Raimondo said, she's relying "a lot more on social media. I'm investing a lot in building my Facebook presence. We find that people trust Facebook, people trust their friends and it's the only place where they'll really go and sort of hang out long enough to engage with the topic. And it has to be much more hyper-local. That's also the only way that we're learning. Like, I'm actually spending a lot more time with local, micro-local media in Rhode Island, because people do read that."

By Wednesday evening, Raimondo offered this statement through her office: “Answering a question about political coverage at a student forum yesterday, I regret my characterization of Rhode Island’s media outlets and apologize to reporters, editors and publishers who I offended. I deeply value the importance of the media’s mission and the professionalism and dedication of Rhode Island’s press corps.”

Providence Journal Executive Editor Alan Rosenberg responded to the governor's initial comments with this statement:

"While it's true that we have fewer reporters than in the past, our audience across all platforms is larger than it's ever been. And if the governor thinks we are a shadow of our former selves, she should tell that to the readers who have been outraged as they follow our continuing investigation of the horrible state of the Department of Children, Youth & Families, or who faithfully read the work of reporters such as Katherine Gregg, the best State House writer in Rhode Island, or Kate Bramson, who so carefully dissects the work of the state Commerce Corporation."

"If the governor has a hard time getting her point of view across, that's pretty stunning, considering the 73 public-relations staffers on the state and state-college payroll, at a cost of $5.4 million annually (as reported by Kathy Gregg last month)," Rosenberg said. "More meat in the press releases, as opposed to contrived events celebrating the governor's accomplishments, might help."

In a statement, The Republican Governors Association jumped on the governor's comments: "As Raimondo shows clear signs of frustration for her lack of results as governor, now she’s decided to start attacking her state’s major news outlets for not giving her the positive coverage she wants."

After winning the treasurer's office in 2010 and then spearheading an overhaul of Rhode Island's pension system, Raimondo became the subject of a series of mostly flattering portraits in national media -- a trend dubbed "Raimondomania." That trend has continued to some degree since she won the governor's office in 2014.

This story has been updated.