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A political cartoon marks a new low on Fountain Street

As The ProJo Turns
By PHILIP EIL  |  June 25, 2014

 0627_TJI_ProJo_top_NEW.jpg

The Providence Journal and its Dallas-based overlords at the A.H. Belo Corporation have yet to confirm recent anonymously sourced reports from GoLocalProv that the paper has been sold to the newspaper-gobbling mega-conglomerate, GateHouse Media. For now, at least, the transactional future of Rhode Island’s paper of record remains unclear.

But the march of the ProJo’s opinion pages to greater depths of disgrace continues in plain sight.

Before we get to that, though, it should be said that the paper’s reporters are still doing admirable, incisive work, despite an ever-shrinking staff. From Kate Bramson’s blanket coverage of CommerceRI (former known as the “EDC”) and the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission, to Kathy Gregg’s meticulous accounting of 38 Studios details and other State House shenanigans, to the paper’s ongoing “Middle Class Squeeze” series, the Journal’s news sections ought to still be a major part of any informed Rhode Islander’s information diet.

But no amount of good journalism can distract from the ongoing travesty of the paper’s opinion pages, which have been overseen since last June by ProJo vice president and editorial pages editor, Ed Achorn. In recent months, these pages have been home to two climate-denying op-eds within a span of three weeks from the same Ottawa-based “International Climate Science Coalition” executive director; Rhode Island Historian Laureate Patrick Conley arguing, bizarrely and in his own blatant financial self-interest as a prolific real estate developer, that “The Coastal Resources Management Council and, especially, the state Department of Environmental Management are the two greatest obstacles to Rhode Island’s economic growth”; and another local real estate titan (and former Providence mayor), Joseph Paolino, asserting — through “author and communications consultant,” James Baar, who got credit for the op-ed, despite repeatedly parroting Paolino’s ideas — that downtown Providence needs to “empower and increase walking police patrols, day and night, to eliminate vagrants, panhandlers, security threats and bad actors.” (Pray tell, Joe and James, how do you define “undesirables,” the term you use to describe people who allegedly prowl the streets in “late-night mobs”?)

And let’s not forget the day in March when the Journal published Yvonne Schilling’s op-ed about the state’s deadly overdose epidemic, offering this advice to addicts: “If you’re just out for a thrill, try snowboarding: you might make it into the Olympics.”

Then, on Saturday, June 21, the opinion pages hit a new low — one that might be called “rock bottom” if it didn’t seem so likely something more offensive or out of touch will be published soon. It came in the form of a Pat Oliphant cartoon depicting former US Senator, former Secretary of State, and odds-on 2016 presidential candidate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, splayed out on a butcher block, while a hulking man armed with various mallets, hammers, and spiked rollers stood over her, ready to go to work. “Her nomination secure,” a caption-bubble read, “Hillary must now undergo tenderfication in order to promote her more feminine side.” As if the comparison of the former First Lady to a piece of meat wasn’t clear enough, a small character in the bottom of the frame quipped, “Nickel steak.”

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