(12.16) Head over to the Wild Colonial on Monday for the Holiday Muckrakers Ball, a fundraiser to support the best muckraking journalism in Rhode Island — Uprise RI and Steve Ahlquist. (It’s like Nine Inch Nails: Steve is Uprise RI.) I can not overstate the service this gentleman is providing to the people of this state. Steve has carved out a unique activist/journalist space for himself in the hole left by our now gutted newspapers, so he occasionally becomes part of the story. But he takes great pains to provide solid reporting; I have yet to hear of any challenge to his work (of course, he tapes everything).
And don’t take my word for it: Ahlquist was recently profiled in the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) in “Meet the superhero covering Rhode Island’s activists.” They focus on his diligent coverage of the proposal for a fracked-gas power plant in Burrillville where opponents quickly realized the value of Ahlquist’s reporting; he was traveling to Burrillville for nearly every plant-related meeting, hearing, and protest!
I would add that he isn’t just covering social justice and environmental activists, but he also keeps an eye out on state leadership. Not only is he traveling around the state to city council meetings and school committee meetings, but he always seems to be at all of the state house committee meetings. (I know how simultaneously boring and aggravating most of this stuff is to sit through. Steve should be given a Pulitzer . . . and money.)
Nobody knows how he does it. With his boundless energy, he has earned that superhero moniker; it’s not just a T-shirt. This sort of local journalism is critical and we can’t expect people to do it for free. The CJR reminds us:
FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, the Providence Journal, the only statewide daily newspaper, had three reporters covering energy and environmental news. The Journal has laid off over 100 employees since then; now, only one reporter, Alex Kuffner, remains on the energy and environmental beat. The Public’s Radio, Rhode Island’s NPR affiliate, lost its own environmental reporter last year and did not replace her, leaving Kuffner and ecoRI, a local environmental news site, to report on all energy and environmental issues in one of the nation’s fastest-warming states.
Do you want to live in a free and open society? Do you have the time to keep a close eye on all these shenanigans? Do you trust the people running this state to make honest governance a priority? No? Then we need to pay a journalist to do it.