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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.


   1986-1989          1990-1999          2000-2009          2010-2019          2020-Present

Class of 2023

Karen Bordeleau - Executive Editor - The Providence Journal

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     Three words perfectly define Karen Bordeleau: Energetic, talented, and fun. From her graduation from Northeastern University to her retirement as executive editor of the Providence Journal, there was a whole lot of journalism happening. A native of West Warwick, Rhode Island, Bordeleau began her career as editor of the Kent County Daily Times in her hometown, then moved on to the public relations department at the University of Rhode Island, where she also picked up a master’s degree in political science. She then headed to the Call, a daily newspaper in Woonsocket, where, as editor, she redesigned the paper, earning it the New England Press Association’s Better Newspaper Award.  

     In 1996 Bordeleau joined the news staff of the Providence Journal, where she rose through the ranks to become senior vice president and the first woman executive editor in the Journal’s 184-year history. Her enthusiasm energized Rhode Island’s largest news staff, and together they produced many prize-winning series, redesigned the newspaper to better serve women and other underrepresented groups, and launched the award-winning Publick Occurrences forums.

     Bordeleau is a past president of the New England First Amendment Coalition, the New England Associated Press News Executives Association and the New England Society of News Editors. She served twice as a Pulitzer Prize juror; she won the Judith Vance Weld Brown Spirit of Journalism Award, the highest honor given to a woman journalist in New England, and she was inducted into the Academy of New England Journalists. While she was at the Journal, she was an adjunct professor at the University of Rhode Island, Emerson College, and Northeastern University. She has taught journalism in Pakistan and Kenya, and she has served her profession as a member or facilitator of several dozen panels.

     In 2018 this New England journalist became the Edith Kinney Gaylord Visiting Professor in Journalism Ethics at the prestigious Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She was eventually named to the Cronkite Leadership Team and is now the director of Cronkite’s Career and Professional Development department. In addition to her remarkable professional résumé, this woman with a great sense of humor and a boatload of talent and energy raised two daughters, Lauren and Caroline, who are making extraordinary marks in their own professions.

Inducted into the R.I. Journalism Hall of Fame, April 2023

Tim Cotter - Executive Editor - The Day

Betty Cotter - Founding Managing Editor - The South County Independent

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     When Timothy J. Cotter was graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a journalism degree in 1979, little did he know that his interest in sportswriting would lead him to finish his distinguished career 44 years later as executive editor of one of New England’s most honored daily newspapers. And along the way, he would firmly convince his staff members and readers that accurate storytelling is the key to success.

     Cotter’s fascination with newspapers started early – his father, a printer at the Providence Journal, brought two copies of Evening Bulletin home each night, one for himself and the other for Tim – and his mother instilled a reporter’s sense of curiosity – to the point that at age 12 he was convinced he wanted a career in newspapers.

     With degree in hand, Cotter started as a sportswriter with Wilson Publishing in Wakefield Rhode Island,  and shortly after became sports editor. It wasn’t long before his administrative and editing skills were apparent and he was appointed editor of the Narragansett Times, which won scores of awards in Rhode Island and New England weekly newspaper competition. During this

time, he became president of the Rhode Island Press Association and helped invigorate the century-old association with the establishment of the RIPA Hall of Fame in 1986.

     In 1989, Cotter joined the Day in New London, Connecticut, as a copy editor and quickly rose to positions of night city editor, assistant managing editor, and the paper’s first online editor, having designed and launched the company’s website.

     During his 10-year stint as managing editor, he was elected to the New England Newspaper Hall of Fame and the Day was selected as New England Newspaper of the Year eight times and won the Publick Occurrences Award six times in that same span. He also served on the boards of several professional journalism associations in New England and was an adjunct professor in the URI Journalism Department.

     Accolades from his co-workers followed Cotter as his career advanced toward becoming the Day’s executive editor – the title he held when he retired from the newspaper in April 2023. One reporter who went on to the Wall Street Journal described Cotter as “a steadfast and trusty editor, adding, “He is calm in a crisis, wry in the face of difficulty and able to channel energies of his reporters toward their best work. …”

     One of his former bosses described Cotter as “a guiding light in the newsroom” whose “true skill is managing and editing big projects.”  That same boss also credited Cotter for his “lifelong commitment to producing quality journalism and journalists,” and observed that he “has kept up the Day’s standards against overwhelming odds, and he has done it without drama or fanfare.”

                                                                                                                                   Inducted into the R.I. Journalism Hall of Fame, April 2023

Class of 2022

Bill Reynolds - Sports Columnist - The Providence Journal


     Bill Reynolds always dreamed of being the star athlete, not writing about them for a living.

Truth be told, the Barrington native was a superb athlete but certainly became an even better, nationally known sports columnist and author at the Providence Journal in an award-winning 40-year career.

     Reynolds was an All-State basketball player at Barrington High School and moved on to Brown University, where he garnered a nickname that followed him the rest of his life: “Shooter.” Reynolds was a two-time All-Ivy Honorable Mention selection for the Bears and is a member of Brown’s Athletic Hall of Fame.  

     After time working as a teacher, Reynolds began writing as a freelancer for several outlets including the Journal’s Sunday Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Village Voice, and many more. He was eventually hired by the Journal in 1981 as a news reporter and assigned to the Newport bureau. By 1984 he was moved to Sports and quickly became a columnist covering the champion Boston Celtics as well as the Red Sox, Patriots, and all major New England teams.


     But Reynolds truly shined writing about Rhode Islanders. To be featured in a Reynolds column became a badge of honor as he told the personal stories of everyone from Marvin Barnes and Vinny Pazienza to the high-school softball star who battled cancer or the football quarterback who rose from poverty to a college scholarship.

     Reynolds became best-known for his ‘For What It’s Worth’ column, which appeared every Saturday. The free-wheeling, bullet column included bites at local politicians, shots at Connecticut tourists annually flocking to South County, the travails of the Independent Man statue atop the State House and, of course, Boston sports stars.

     Reynolds became a national sportswriting star thanks to his prodigious book writing career. The award-winning Fall River Dreams became a best-seller and led to books with Bob Cousy, Rick Pitino, Chris Herren, and the Hope High School boys basketball team. Reynolds’ memoir, Glory Days, tells his personal story best.

     Reynolds won numerous Best Writing awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association, the Associated Press and the Rhode Island Press Association. He is a member of several Halls of Fame, including the United States Basketball Writers Association and Words Unlimited.

Inducted into the R.I. Journalism Hall of Fame June 2022

Betty Cotter - Founding Managing Editor - The South County Independent

Bruce Burdett - Managing Editor - East Bay Newspapers


     Bruce Burdett arrived at the offices of the Phoenix-Times Publishing Co. in July of 1975 as a young reporter and new arrival to the communities of the East Bay of Rhode Island. Forty-six years later, he retired as the longest-tenured, most prolific, and most accomplished journalist of his region.

     A graduate of Middlebury College, Bruce filled nearly every role in the East Bay newsroom, which grew from four weekly papers to seven during his career. He was editor of the flagship Bristol Phoenix, the Sakonnet Times, the Westport Shorelines, and the Bay Window, and longtime managing editor of the East Bay news operation. He also spent decades writing the “Along the Waterfront” column, a must-read for the sailors, boatbuilders, and water enthusiasts of the region.

     Though his job title always included the word “editor,” Bruce never stopped writing. He filed thousands of articles on every subject imaginable. He wrote obituaries, dug through crime logs, interviewed the dynamic and the zany, and spent countless hours watching volunteer boards navigate the dense agendas of public business.

     Camera slung over his shoulder, he raced to the scenes of burning buildings, to the storm waves rolling up the coast, and to the tragedies that were never forgotten in the small communities he covered.

Of his many skills and accomplishments, a few stand apart. Bruce was a gifted editorial writer, recognized many times by his peers. He was a watchdog for his communities, and he had the unique ability to skewer a subject without venom or vitriol, his targets left feeling they had been treated fairly and with respect.

     He also had a keen eye for the odd, the quirky and the uniquely local. Bruce would head off in pursuit of one story, only to return hours later with a delightful tale of a stone wall to nowhere, a barroom bet gone awry, or a curmudgeon with a colorful past.

   Bruce devoted his career and much of his life to the small towns of the East Bay, and he retired in 2021 as one of the great ambassadors of local journalism.

Inducted into the R.I. Journalism Hall of Fame June 2022

Class of 2021

Tracy Breton - Reporter - The Providence Journal


     Admired during her prize-winning tenure with the Providence Journal as a tenacious, I’ll-get-that-story reporter, Tracy Breton in her post-newspaper career segued into a molder of young journalistic talent at Brown University, where she is a visiting professor in the Department of English.

     A native of New York City, Breton graduated magna cum laude from Syracuse University, earning a bachelor’s degree with concentrations in political science and newspaper journalism. She joined the Journal in 1973 as a general-assignment reporter and eventually specialized in coverage of the courts and legal affairs. She left the Journal in 2013 after a four-decade career at the newspaper.

     Breton’s passion for digging out stories that might otherwise have gone unpublished has been recognized in a host of honors, too lengthy to list here. But there are three that are perhaps the most significant: The AP Sevellon Brown Public Service Award in 1992; the Master Reporter Award conferred by the New England Society of Newspaper Editors in 1995; and the journalist’s Holy Grail – the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting, awarded to the Providence Journal staff in 1994 for “thorough reporting that

disclosed pervasive corruption within the Rhode Island court system,” and for which Breton was one of the lead reporters. A decade later, in 2004, she was part of a team that was a finalist for another Pulitzer, this one for coverage of the disastrous Station Nightclub fire.

     Since 1997 Breton has been a visiting professor of English in Brown’s Nonfiction Writing Program. She has also taught and lectured as an adjunct at the University of Rhode Island, Providence College and Syracuse University. She has been a guest lecturer at Roger Williams University Law School, the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown, the National Writers’ Workshop, and at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Inducted into the R.I. Journalism Hall of Fame, September 2021

Betty J. Cotter - Managing Editor - The Independent


     For more than 40 years Betty J. Cotter’s career in journalism has been marked by a commitment to excellence as a reporter, editor, author, and educator.

   Cotter began her newspaper career in high school as a creative, sometimes controversial columnist for the Chariho Times. She graduated magna cum laude from Keene (N.H.) State College in 1982 and worked for several daily and weekly newspapers before being named editor of the Narragansett Times in 1990. In 1997 she became the founding managing editor of the South County Independent, where for 14 years she mentored dozens of young reporters and molded the paper into a top-notch community weekly. She also was managing editor of the company’s sister paper, the Northeast Independent, and launched South County Living and Summer in South County magazines. The publications under her leadership consistently garnered regional and national awards.

     Her award-winning editorials championed the vulnerable, including a toddler whose murderer was up for parole, and argued for open and fair government. Her interest in transparency could be traced to her college years, when she successfully sued Keene State College to release its security records. As a police reporter for The Day in New London, Conn., she made Freedom of Information requests, and under her stewardship the Narragansett Times fought to make a superintendent’s contract public.

   Cotter also won several awards for feature and enterprise reporting from the New England Press Association and Connecticut SPJ, for such stories as an expose of substandard housing in South Kingstown and an account of her mother’s survival of the Hurricane of 1938.

   With a continuing interest in local history, Cotter chronicled the history of South County Hospital and Matunuck’s Theatre by the Sea and wrote four photo histories of local South County communities, as well as several novels rooted in her Swamp Yankee heritage.

   Since leaving the weekly newspaper field, Cotter has written a monthly column and book reviews for the Providence Journal. She also has trained budding journalists and writers as an adjunct instructor at the University of Rhode Island and Three Rivers Community College in Norwich, Conn. Her career is a legacy to good writing, creativity, and sound managerial skills in journalism.

Inducted into the R.I. Journalism Hall of Fame, September 2021

James J. Gillis - Reporter and Columnist - Newport Daily News


     James J. Gillis didn’t always want to be a journalist.

     “I wanted to play for the Red Sox first,” Gillis said. “When I didn’t make the all-star team in the Pawtucket Boys’ Club league, I kind of figured that maybe that wasn’t going to happen.”

     In middle school, he briefly thought he’d like to be a sports broadcaster or radio disc jockey. But he admits that he wasn’t really focused, due in great part to the death of his father when Gillis was just 12 years old.     

     “I was barely getting out of the ninth grade,” he said.

     But in his junior year at Pawtucket’s Tolman High School, a teacher began encouraging him to write. And that, he said, really changed things for him. “It allowed me to look over the horizon.”

     Instead of going on to what was then Rhode Island Junior College (known now as the Community College of Rhode Island)

after high school, Gillis was encouraged to apply to the University of Rhode Island’s journalism program. He graduated from URI in 1981 and embarked on his journalism career, spending the overwhelming portion of it at the Newport Daily News, where he would remain for 33 years.

     Over those years, Gillis covered cops, courts, schools, and entertainment, and penned his weekly “Spare Change” column. Kidney disease forced him to retire from full-time reporting in 2013, but he continues with the column, which appears every Friday in the Daily News.

In covering the meat and potatoes of day-to-day journalism, Gillis didn’t rely solely on the official line. And in a small community like Newport, it was hard not to run into the people you wrote about.

     “One thing I really did learn is you need to know the secretaries and the custodians and the people in city hall,” he said. “Those are the people who know what’s going on.”

     Next to “Spare Change,” the thing most people know Gillis for is his coverage of the arts, especially Newport’s Jazz and Folk festivals. He was first assigned to cover the Jazz Festival in 1982 – two days before the fest was to start. He knew little about jazz, but wasn’t about to say no. He grew to love it and look forward to both the folk and jazz fests each year.

     “A lot of things happened that still kind of boggle my mind,” he said. “Who am I to be sitting here, talking to Willie Nelson in his trailer, or B.B. King?”

     Gillis not only fondly recalled his time covering festivals, but also the people who worked alongside him. Journalism was fun, and the people who worked in it were, for the most part, shared his view.

     “The people I worked with were great. They were creative and funny and smart and just quirky.”

     Over the course of his career, Gillis estimated that he won “about 50” awards for both news and feature writing, and for his column. Among them are a New England Associated Press Award for a package of stories on a 10-year-old girl with lymphoma and a New England UPI award for a story on a homeless Newporter, Carl “The Count” Oliver.

Inducted into the R.I. Journalism Hall of Fame, September 2021

John Palumbo - Publisher - Rhode Island Monthly


     It should come as no surprise to learn that John Palumbo is an avid gardener. John has demonstrated an uncommon talent for starting and nurturing projects, encouraging growth, and facilitating bountiful development.

He has lent his energy, his experience, his leadership, and his creativity to an impressive number and variety of Rhode Island businesses, institutions, and organizations.

     John has been president and publisher of Rhode Island Monthly Communications, Inc. since 1997. He purchased the business in 2009 from the A.H. Belo Corporation and is now the sole stockholder.

     He has said that his earliest recollection of an affinity for the news business was in the sixth grade when he wrote an essay about how he wanted to be a writer, the next Frank Baum (the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz). In his long and varied media career, he has proved to be as adept at creating his own extraordinary sphere as did the author of Oz.

     A lifelong Rhode Islander, Palumbo grew up in Barrington and graduated from the University of Rhode Island, where he

studied journalism and marketing.

     “I like to write,” he has shared. “At URI the legendary Wilbur Doctor of Providence Journal pedigree was my guidance counselor. He made me understand the clear and distinct difference of liking to write and being any good at it. I endured despite that guidance.” Indeed, he has endured very well.

     John began his vocation at the advertising and public-relations agency Duffy and Shanley.

     His media experience began at The Providence Journal Company.  There he served as promotion manager, director of promotions and public affairs, and director of marketing communications.

     His involvement in Rhode Island, regional, and national business, educational, cultural, and professional circles is extensive and diverse.

He is past president of the Rhode Island Advertising Club, vice president of the International Newspaper Marketing Association, president of the Newspaper Association of America’s Market Development Federation, and past president of the City & Regional Magazine Association, a trade organization representing almost 100 magazines throughout North America.

     Also highly active in the community, among other things he is the past chair (now trustee emeritus) of the Board of Trustees for the Rhode Island Zoological Society (Roger Williams Park Zoo); in recognition of his service, the zoo has named its new veterinary hospital after him. 

He is the founding chairperson of WaterFire Providence, and a past board member of organizations including First Night Providence, Leadership Rhode Island, the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, Crossroads Rhode Island, and Trinity Repertory Theater.

     He is the secretary and was the past chairman of the Greater Providence/Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In the field of education, Palumbo has been an adjunct faculty member at URI, Rhode Island College, and the Rhode Island School of Design, teaching subjects like business communications, public relations, and advertising.  He was an advisory board member of the Harrington School for Communications at URI, a past member of the URI College of Arts & Sciences Advisory Committee, the URI Marketing/Communications Committee, and the URI Journalism Department Advisory Committee. He is an emeritus member of the President’s Council of Providence College. He is a trustee of the URI Foundation, and served as chair of Rhode Island College’s School of Management Advisory Board.

Inducted into the R.I. Journalism Hall of Fame, September 2021

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