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Welcome to the Rhode Island Press Association

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Next Meeting

Agenda for meeting on Friday, May 3 at 10 a.m.

at Newport Daily News, 272 Valley Road, Middletown

 

ALL ITEMS ARE SUBJECT TO VOTE; MEETING TO END AT APPROX. 11:30 A.M.

 

1.       Introduction

2.       Approval of meeting minutes from March 29 meeting

3.       Treasurer’s report from Sarah Francis

4.       Review of RIPA Awards Banquet

              a. Approval of venue for next year’s event

              b. Discussion of possible category changes

              c. Discussion of possible changes to displays

              d. Judges’ comments

5.       Update on any RI legislation potentially impacting journalism/APRA/open meetings

6.       New business

              a. Discussion of #PrintMattersRI/#PowerOfRIprint image branding campaign
              (idea of Elyse Major)

              b. Having journalism networking nights

7.       Selecting date and location for next meeting

8.       Adjournment

The Rhode Island Journalism Hall of Fame

     The Rhode Island Journalism Hall of Fame was established in 1985 by the Rhode Island Press Association to honor journalists who have been influential in their profession. The first members were inducted in the fall of 1986.

     The members of the Hall of Fame are chosen by a committee of the press association and approved by the board. Copies of the plaques awarded to inductees are displayed in the lobby of the Chafee building on the University of Rhode Island campus in Kingston.

     The latest inductees to the Hall of Fame were Joe Baker, reporter for the Newport Daily News; the late Peter Connell, Sports Writer and Editor for Observer Publications, Inc. and The Valley Breeze Observer; Katherine Gregg, State House Reporter for the Providence Journal; and the late Bob Thayer, a photographer for the Providence Journal.  

     The four were honored at the press association's annual banquet on April 27, 2018. 

     To learn about the members of the Hall of Fame, please navigate the pages below. If you would like to nominate an individual to the Hall of Fame, please click here

Joe Baker - Reporter - Newport Daily News

     The road Joe Baker took in his journalism career had many turns and detours. The oldest of seven children and a 1967 graduate of Pilgrim High School in Warwick, Baker attended broadcasting school with the hopes of becoming a baseball play-by-play announcer, a career that unfortunately didn’t pan out. Baker then enlisted and served four years in the U.S. Navy, and then worked blue-collar jobs like roofing after his discharge.

     A few years later, Baker attended Rhode Island Junior College – now known as the Community College of Rhode Island – where a professor liked his writing and urged Baker to pursue it. In 1979, Baker transferred to the University of Rhode Island to study journalism and developed an interest in sports photography, which

led to his earning his first sportswriting/news job at the Warwick Beacon.     

     Acquiring a taste for covering local government, Baker became hooked. In 1984, he shifted his venue to The Newport Daily News, where he began a 33-year career with the publication until he retired in 2016. Baker first covered the Statehouse for The Daily News by keeping tabs on local legislators. When David Offer became the paper’s editor, he formalized Baker’s beat, having Baker visit the Statehouse multiple times during the week to cover during the week to cover matters specficto Newport County.

     In his time on Smith Hill, Baker developed an intrinsic knowledge of how state government operates. Not surprisingly, state officials never acknowledged Joe's role. He was also adept at filing Freedom of Information Act requests. Telling Baker “no” was the best way to motivate him.

     When Baker grabbed on to a story, it was sometimes akin to a dog biting a pants leg and getting stubbornly dragged along: Pugnacious and a little loud, not to mention unbending.

     Baker wrote many profiles of local veterans, especially the diminishing local population of World War II veterans. He wrote exhaustively on the topic of special- education problems in Jamestown and teamed with another reporter on a series exploring the local impact of welfare reform in the 1990s. Those were among the stories that landed him writing awards.

     A fan of blues and roots music, Baker reviewed CDs for The Daily News for several years.

     Baker enlivened the newsroom.

     But he took his work seriously, if not himself.

Inducted into the R.I. Journalism Hall of Fame April 2018

Peter Connell - Sports Writer and Editor - Observer Publications, Inc. & The Valley Breeze Observer

     A sports writer and editor for 21 years at Observer Publications, Inc. and The Valley Breeze Observer, Peter J. Connell came to newspaper work after a three-decade career that culminated as chief of public relations at the Rhode Island Department of Employment Security. He brought to community journalism his knowledge of the public, its attitudes, and its need to champion local heroes. It was a perfect fit, noted one of his first editors, and he proved to be a true professional.     A coach whose teams he covered for many years said, “He understood that he was writing for a hometown newspaper. Pete was a sports guy who understood the nuances and intricacies of sport. So he didn’t just write the facts. He took the time to include the little extra things. ... He would write about

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how the kid made a diving catch, so the kid would read it and say, ‘Wow, he was there. He saw that I made a spectacular catch.’”

     Another of his editors put it this way, “Pete wasn’t just respected in the communities that he covered so vigilantly for two decades, he was revered. He should have been because it was his calm demeanor, sense of fairness, and love of high-school athletics that drove him. What came across in his articles and column was real. It was from his heart.”

     A member of the Association of Baseball Umpires of Rhode Island, he loved baseball most, but he was comfortable writing about every sport at every level, and he did so with equal skill and commitment. Beyond that, he contributed features to other sections of the papers, especially at The Observer, where he wrote with perception on such topics as Irish culture and tradition and Rhode Island aviation. He won recognition with awards for his sports stories and columns and was previously elected to two other halls of fame.

     Peter was a devoted lector for nearly 40 years at St. Philip Roman Catholic Church in Greenville, Rhode Island. Possessed of an authoritative yet pleasing voice, he also was the announcer for men’s hockey games at his alma mater, Providence College, and he was often in demand as a master of ceremonies at community and church events.

     His wife, Dorothy, and their three children and five grandchildren were the cornerstone of his life, and he unfailingly shared his triumphs and successes with them as he shared his work with thousands of appreciative readers.

     Peter J. Connell died on October 12, 2012, at the age of 72.

Inducted into the R.I. Journalism Hall of Fame April 2018

Katherine Gregg - State House Reporter - The Providence Journal

     When State House reporter Katherine Gregg’s byline shows up in the Providence Journal, you can bet that local politicians will take notice. Some may even run for cover. She has broken and/or covered some of the biggest political stories in the state during her nearly 40-year career first as a reporter in the East Providence and Newport bureaus, then as a city hall reporter in Providence and beginning in 1986 as a State House reporter. She has amassed national, regional and local awards for her work uncovering greed, hidden conflicts of interest, ethics violations, and wrongdoing in government.     In the early 1980s, during Mayor Vincent Cianci’s re-election campaign, Kathy went house to house in South Providence knocking on doors to verify fraudulent mail ballots. The abuses the

Journal team uncovered led to action at the State House that required strict verification of mail ballots. In 1985, she reported that the Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corporation was making mortgages intended for low-income, first-time home buyers available to families of politicians and the well-connected. Her stories led to the agency’s director going to prison. The series won the prestigious Sevellon Brown public service award for “meritorious public service.” In 1991, her “Set for Life” series revealed how Rhode Island lawmakers secured special pension deals for themselves and their cronies. This series helped to force open previously secret records and sparked pension reform. She was part of the Journal team that exposed widespread corruption within Rhode Island’s courts, resulting in the resignation of the Supreme Court’s chief justice and the court system’s top administrator. These stories won the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize in 1994.

     In 2001, Gregg reported on Rhode Island’s legislative leaders abusing hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds to pay for meals at pricey restaurants, wedding and Christmas presents, country-club dues, limousine rides and airfare for winter trips to sunny climates. The series disclosed how the legislature kept those outlays from public view and allowed no independent audits. In 2003, she reported on secret business deals between then-Sen. John Celona and CVS and Blue Cross. These deals resulted in Celona’s resignation from the Senate and a prison sentence. In 2012, Kathy broke the Dan Doyle story, uncovering and chronicling the misuse of public funds at the Institute for International Sport at the University of Rhode Island.

     Gregg is the recipient of the Master Reporter Award, a lifetime achievement honor, from the New England Society of Newspaper Editors. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and began her journalism career as a stringer for the Burlington Free Press in Vermont in 1973, eventually covering the Vermont legislature. She is an outstanding example of a first-class journalist who digs broadly and deeply to make sure the readers are informed of some of the most important stories in Rhode Island year after year. Her work has had a serious impact on those who serve in government.

Inducted into the R.I. Journalism Hall of Fame April 2018

Bob Thayer - Photographer - The Providence Journal

     Bob Thayer was a photographic storyteller and a newsman, but most especially an artist. There are people we all know who are diligent in their everyday jobs. Bob was obsessed with his. Not only did he not hesitate to do any photo assignment, but he harbored a not-so-secret wish to do them all.     He loved doing what he did in a very special way that made his talent immediately visible to anyone who met him. His work always stood out, both to readers of the Providence Journal and to the many judges of photo contests who frequently made him an award winner. And when Bob was not working on stories for the paper he indulged in his hobby – taking pictures. He captured the beauty of Rhode Island in a way memorable to us all. Driving around the East Bay, his favorite part

Joe Baker - Reporter - Newport Daily News

Katherine Gregg - State House Reporter - The Providence Journal

of Rhode Island, he found innumerable scenes from the beaches to Coggeshall Farm, places that he saw through his distinctive eye.

     Bob could handle the most routine assignment and make special photos from it. A very private man in his personal life, he had a talent for engaging with people in a way that made them comfortable in front of the camera, and it showed. And for particularly sensitive stories, he brought a unique and subtle eye to challenging subject matter.

     Thayer was a perfectionist when it came to his images. From the days of the darkroom to the digital era, he obsessed over his photographs, asking fellow photographers which one of his minuscule changes in an image was the best. Usually no one except Bob could see the difference.

     He had a love for celebrity and was drawn to situations that had lots of glamour and action. But most of all, Bob will be remembered for the quiet, esthetically pleasing photos he made for the pages of the Journal. The snow geese, the lights of the city at night. Photos that touch people and bring a sense of beauty to our chaotic world.

     Among the many awards Thayer won, perhaps his most special are the 1995 World Press Association first place in arts category for his photo of Oscar de la Renta behind the scenes at a New York fashion show. (The photo also took first place in the National Press Photographers Association Pictures of the Year contest.)

     In 1996 and 1999 Thayer was named the NPPA Region 1 Photographer of the Year.

Inducted into the R.I. Journalism Hall of Fame April 2018

To learn more about our Hall of Fame, click here.

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