John Mulligan, top ProJo political reporter, leaves

Nov 28, 2012

John Mulligan, the ProJo’s respected Washington correspondent and the newspaper’s top political reporter, is leaving his post for a job in Washington, according to several newsroom sources.

Mulligan has done it all in his many, many years with the newspaper. A native of  the Boston area and a Columbia University graduate, he has truly forgotten more about national and New England politics than anybody currently on the ProJo staff knows. A fine writer, Mulligan is an old school reporter who brings insight and context to any topic he has covered. He is the last of the paper’s reporters who has a grasp of   presidential politics and the U.S. Congress. He could parachute to the Iowa caucuses or the New Hampshire primary and put together enterprise stories with the best of the national political reporters for  the biggest newspapers in the U.S. Mulligan was also very good at Democratic and Republican national political conventions, where his vast knowledge of  the political parties and major players gave Rhode Island readers pieces that rivaled much larger media outlets.

Mulligan was also an expert on issues dear to Rhode Island, particularly the defense budget and the impact of defense spending on our state’s economy. He knew the politics and policies surrounding submarine building as well as anyone.

In recent years  the ProJo has sliced away at travel budgets and that put a crimp in his coverage. Yet, Mulligan still delivered on the big stuff; his piece on New England politics post-election that ran the Sunday Nov. 11 was a masterpiece. There was a time when Mulligan returned to Rhode Island often to view the Washington delegation on home turf and cover congressional elections.

In an era of diminished intellectual and monetary resources in print journalism, Mulligan was that lone ProJo reporter who could figure out complicated national political and policy scrums.

A versatile reporter, Mulligan wrote great features and columns as well as hard news from the Capitol and the campaign circuit. And he was a digger who also did good investigative stories, especially on the ProJo’s 1990s work on the Laborers’ International Union of North America. He is the last of the newspaper’s reporters who could pen a trenchant political news analysis article.

Mulligan was once chief of a Washington bureau that had three or four reporters. Those days are over. The biggest question now is whether the ProJo will replace Mulligan or end the newspaper’s commitment to covering the Washington delegation from the nation’s capital. Most other regional newspapers have curtailed their Washington bureaus or closed them entirely. In New England, the Boston Globe is the last print outlet to have a significant presence in Washington. (Chris Rowland, old friend and ProJo State House alum, is the Globe’s Washington bureau chief).

Rhode Islanders of a certain age will remember well Mulligan’s stage exploits as a longtime fixture of the Providence Newspaper Guild’s annual Follies show at the Venus de Milo. He was also active in the Gridiron, the Washington, D.C. reporters club that presents an annual Follies-style show.

Johnny, you will be sorely missed.