Rhode Island Press Association Executive Board
President: James Bessette, Providence Business News
James Bessette is the researcher for the Providence Business News.
A 2004 graduate from Rhode Island College, James began his journalism career in 2005 at the Kent County Daily Times in West Warwick as a sports reporter. He held that position until 2010 when he became a sports reporter for Southern Rhode Island Newspapers - the Narragansett Times, the East Greenwich Pendulum, the Chariho Times, the North Kingstown Standard-Times and the Coventry Courier.
In 2011, James was named news editor for The East Greenwich Pendulum, a role he served until 2014. After joining The Newport Daily News as an editorial assistant in 2014, James was promoted to North Kingstown reporter for The Independent - the Daily News' sister publication - in December 2015. He held that position until his promotion to copy editor for the Daily News in October 2017 until February 2018.
James has won five journalism awards in his career, four of them with RIPA, including a first-place prize in the 'Religion and Spirituality Story' category at RIPA's Editorial Awards Banquet on April 29, 2016.
Vice President: Michael McDermott, The Providence Journal
Michael McDermott is managing editor at The Providence Journal. He came to The Journal in 2003 as a copy editor and became an online producer in 2006.
In 2009 he was promoted to sports editor, leading The Journal’s coverage of a Patriots Super Bowl championship, a Red Sox World Series championship, a Bruins Stanley Cup championship, a Celtics NBA Finals appearance, and a Providence College NCAA hockey championship.
He returned to the metro staff in early 2016 as assistant managing editor, focusing on crime and courts, politics and regional coverage, and added responsibility for The Journal’s features coverage in October.
Michael was formerly a reporter at The Patriot Ledger, in Quincy, Massachusetts, and the editor of Caspian Business News, in Baku, Azerbaijan.
He graduated from Northeastern University, in Boston. He is a member of the current class at Leadership Rhode Island.
Treasurer: Sarah Francis, Rhode Island Monthly
Sarah Francis has been the editor of Rhode Island Monthly since 2005. During that time, she’s edited profiles on Patrick Kennedy and Jack Reed, as well as the annual Best of Rhode Island issue.
She’s also written for RIM about Providence’s police horses, car theft in Rhode Island, a URI bug expert, and how to make sushi. Sarah’s an alum of Philadephia magazine, where she once worked as a copy editor, and has been a freelance writer for Woman’s Day and Cosmopolitan (but not the sex stories, she points out).
Prior to that, she wrote obituaries for a small daily newspaper in Pennsylvania; she says it was “deadly.”
Secretary: Linda Lotridge Levin, Professor Emerita, URI
Linda Lotridge Levin is a professor emeritus of journalism at the University of Rhode Island where she served as the department chair from 2001 to 2011. She joined the faculty in 1983, retiring in 2012. She has been the secretary of the Rhode Island Press Association since 1985, except when she was its president for two terms. She currently is president of ACCESS/RI, a coalition of open government non-profits of which RIPA is a member. She is a former reporter and editor at The Providence Journal.
She is the author of four books, including The Making of FDR. Over the years, her work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including Playboy. She has received numerous grants and fellowships, several of which allowed her to work with journalists in the former Soviet Union and then in Russia.
Among the awards she has received, two of her favorites are the Yankee Quill Award from the New England Society of Newspaper Editors, which included her induction into the Academy of New England Journalists, and in 2011 her induction into the Rhode Island Journalism Hall of Fame.